Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

Bird Quest 2014 #12

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer

Shorebird migration continues on the Washington Coast.  This past week -- Wednesday and Thursday there was great weather on the Washington Coast and while there were fewer birds than a week ago, there are still thousands and thousands of shorebirds out there.  

California Gull hanging out in some good Washington Coastal weather.
California Gull hanging out in some good Washington Coastal weather.

I use the car as a photo blind a lot, and this works really well for gulls at the beach since they're used to a lot of vehicles.  Well, some people even feed the gulls from their cars ;-) so the  gulls are habituated to cars and humans.  Taken with a bean bag drapped over the window/door and the camera and lens resting on the beanbag.

Crow, let's just say American.
Crow, let's just say American.

I was really hoping I could get some more Raven  images, but the crows were more plentiful and cooperative.  Oh well, next winter then.

Killdeer trying to figure out if it should do the distraction display or if I wasn't a threat.
Killdeer trying to figure out if it should do the distraction display or if I wasn't a threat.

Killdeer are so funny, they're nervous and curious at the same time.  This one ran towards me, then ran away form me several times, trying to figure out what I was doing.  I just sat and watched, not making any noise or sudden movements.

How to Get Close:

The next three images were made on an incoming tide.  As the tide came in I was laying in the sand with my camera and lens mounted on a Skimmer Ground Pod II (made by Naturescapes) and a Whimberley gimbal tripod head.  As the birds are pushed towards me by the tide, I slowly crawl a little closer to them.  Moving very slowly it's possible to become just part of the  landscape, and they will eventually get closer than the lens will focus.  At this point I crawl backwards very, very slowly so I don't scare them and either continue to take more images or go back to my car and let them feed.  Shorebirds need a lot of fuel for their migration, and I don't want to have them waste any energy by me spooking them.  I think these eye level images of shorebirds are the best way to create an image of them in their environment, at their level we don't tower over them or look down on them, and it's easier to connect with them.  It's also possible to get even lower by using a ball-head on the Skimmer Ground Pod,  Then then lens will be only a couple of inches above the ground.

Sanderling looking for the next meal.
Sanderling looking for the next meal.

This Sanderling is still pretty much in non-breeding or basic plumage.  Other Sanderling were already starting to get a little brown and a reddish coloration on thier necks and heads, their breeding or alternate plumage.  This is a great time of year to study molt or feather changes in birds.

Semipalmated Plover eating a marine worm.
Semipalmated Plover eating a marine worm.

Shorebird congregate wherever there is plenty of food.  The stretch on beach I was on was loaded with marine worms.  There was also a limited clam dig open when I was shooting and I was told that clam diggers look for where the birds are and that's how they know where the clams will be.  I watched the clam diggers and the shorebirds use the same stretch of beach, the birds were actively feeding within several feet of the clam diggers.  Neither bothered by the other too much.

Western Sandpiper searchiing for food.
Western Sandpiper searchiing for food.

Although it appears as if  the Western Sandpiper is looking at itself in the reflected water, it's really just a search for the next worm.

Enjoy!

Thanks & Good Birding

Tim