Tim Boyer Photography

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Long-billed Curlew

Shorebird Migration On The Washington Coast

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

It’s late June so now is when things start to change again, shorebird migration on the Washington Coast is starting. First, the failed breeders will start showing up then the breeding adults will start to trickle southward. As we get into July more and more adult birds will start returning to the coast, and finally, in late August and into September we’ll have some rare birds show up along with this year's juveniles. Juvenile birds migrate with innate maps coded into their DNA; they’re migrating without their parents, so mistakes happen. If a juvenile bird in the high Arctic makes a small mistake, it could end up on the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean. We got to see birds like the Ruff on August 21, 2014, or Lesser Sand Plover on August 16, 2015. While it’s super exciting to see those rare birds, we’ll still get to see birds a little more common, but equally as special like Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, or Long-billed Curlews and Whimbrel as they migrate down the coast. Late into October, we’ll see juvenile Rock Sandpipers on the rocky coast and jetties.  

Fall migration requires patience that the spring migration doesn’t. In the spring there’s a quick 6-week flurry of birds rushing in their migration northward to claim the choice breeding territories. But the fall migration of shorebirds is very long from the end of June through October. Four months where we need to pace ourselves if we’re to keep up with the latest arrivals. There are several places on the Washington Coast to check out for fall shorebirds. I like to go to the North Jetty at Ocean Shores for Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers and sometimes even Pigeon Guillemots show up. For Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, Western Sandpipers, the outer coastal, sandy beaches are great places. Later in the summer, the coastal freshwater ponds near Midway Beach or the Oyehut Wildlife Area in Ocean Shores are gathering places for migrating Red-necked Phalaropes, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Willets, and occasionally even Whimbrel show up. Where there are some grassy areas out on the Oyehut Wildlife Area, it’s possible to find Pacific and American Golden-Plovers, rare birds like Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Ruff.

If you’re interested in photographing shorebirds and learning more about them, come on my Fall Migration Shorebird Photography Workshop click here.

Enjoy  --    Thanks As Always  --  Tim

It's All About Habitat

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer1 Comment

14 species of shorebirds at the mouth of the San Diego River and then three more at the Tijuana Slough NWR! A 17 species shorebird day!  

Long-billed Curlew scratching its face. Birds have to be contortionist to satisfy those itiches.
Long-billed Curlew scratching its face. Birds have to be contortionist to satisfy those itiches.

We had the usual shorebirds at the San Diego River, plus this year we had Surfbird, Ruddy Turnstone, and Yellowlegs.  This is a great location for birders and bird photographers.  The birds allow for a close approach, the local dogs from the dog park scare them more than humans walking slowly and getting low and non-threatening.  Tech data: 1/1600 of a second, f/6.3 at ISO 250, with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens and a 1.4 Extender.

Marbled Godwit bathing.
Marbled Godwit bathing.

Tech data: 1/1600 of a second, f/6.3 at ISO 250 again with the 5D Mark III the 600 mm lens and the  1.4 Extender.

Little Blue Heron fishing.
Little Blue Heron fishing.

The light started to get harsh when we finally got close to the Little Blue Heron. Created at 1/800 of a second at f/5.6, ISO 400 and still using the 5D Mark III and the 600 mm lens with the 1.4 Extender.

Redhead
Redhead

In the afternoon before we went to the Tijuana NWR we stopped at a Glorietta Bay thinking we'd photograph Eared Grebes and Lesser Scaup.  They weren't there, but we did find Surf Scoter and Redheads, a very nice consolation prize instead!  Captured at 1/640 of a second f/5.6 ISO 400 with the 600 mm and the 1.4 Extender.  I had to crop this too, so you can see they didn't come in very close, but they're beautiful birds!

Enjoy     Thanks As Always     Tim

National Wildlife Refuge Week -- Benton Lake NWR

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana has about 200 species of birds, but it's the breeding habitat for Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers that got me to go there the first time in 2008.  I also discovered birds I hadn't seen before; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Bunting, and Common Terns.  This is a wonderful place to visit in June for the breeding shorebirds but it's also, I hear, great in the spring when the Sharp-tailed Grouse are displaying.  

Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.
Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.

I went to Benton Lakes NWR the first time to find, see and photograph Upland Sandpipers (I have a thing for shorebirds).  Each morning as I drove to the refuge I'd find some, but they were often accompanied by Short-eared Owls.  Sitting on the fence posts there would be three or four Upland Sandpipers then a Short-eared Owl, the pattern repeated over and over again as  I drove past the fence posts.   The wide open short-grass prairie doesn't have many perches so these fence posts are often the only perches around.

Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.
Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.

The auto-tour loop on the refuge offers many opporutinites to see breeding birds and in mid June the chicks are tall enough to get above the  short-grass.

Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the  bill used to sift plankton and  aquatic insects through.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the bill used to sift plankton and aquatic insects through.

Located just outside of Great Falls, Montanta Benton Lake National Wildlfie Refuge was established in 1929 to enhance and protect a closed-basin of cattail and bulrush marsh surrounded by short-grass prairie.  Several hundred thousand migrating birds, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, and song birds depend on this refuge.

Enjoy our National Wildlife Refuges!   Thanks   Tim

Bird Quest 2014 #5

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Little Blue Heron San Diego River.
Little Blue Heron San Diego River.

It's a little strange to go birding and do some bird photography in a dog park.  But the San Diego River estuary and a dog park co-exist.  For the past two years I've been able to photograph Little Blue Herons there.  For me it's a special bird I don't get to see very often. These images were made on January 10th.

Greater Yellowlegs resting.
Greater Yellowlegs resting.
Long-billed Curlew stretching a wing.
Long-billed Curlew stretching a wing.
Willet alternating between resting and preening.
Willet alternating between resting and preening.
Dunlin foraging at the  edges of a pond.
Dunlin foraging at the edges of a pond.
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
Blue-winged Teal resting on a rock just under the  water line.
Blue-winged Teal resting on a rock just under the water line.

We finished the workshop back at Scripp's Beach.  Saw more Marbles Goswits, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Black Phoebe, Whimbrel and had a fantastic sunset  One of my favorite images is this on of the underside of the pier.  It was much darker then the exposure indicates the sun was  well down during this exposure.

Scripp's Beach Pier after sunset, a 25 second exposure.
Scripp's Beach Pier after sunset, a 25 second exposure.

Good Birding!