Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds in Fun Places, Create Award-winning Images!

Red-necked Phalarope

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

Bird Quest 2014 #20

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Ocean Shores Ruff! Last month I spent four days around Grays Harbor photographing shorebirds and teaching a Fall Shorebird Photography Workshop.  Here are the new birds for the year from that outing.  I spent most of my time at Ocean Shores, since the first day I drove from the beach access point by the Best Western north towards the casino.  It was near the casino that I found the juvenile Ruff.  What a great start to the trip!

Juvenile Ruff eating marine worms on the outer coast, Ocean Shores, WA.
Juvenile Ruff eating marine worms on the outer coast, Ocean Shores, WA.
Red KNot and a couple of Black-bellied Plovers.
Red KNot and a couple of Black-bellied Plovers.

Fall migration was really happening, I found three Red Knots in a group of Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, Western Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers.  This year was the first time I was able to find Red Knots during the fall migration.  It's interesting to note the different plumage stages of the Black-bellied Plovers as well.

Caspian Tern hanging out on the beach.
Caspian Tern hanging out on the beach.

These big loud Terns hang out on the beach with the gulls, but typically don't allow a very close approach.  I was able to get pretty close by staying in my car and using it as a photo-blind.  Well that and a big telephoto lens didn't hurt any.

Lesser Yellowlegs at Oyehut Wildlife Area, Ocean Shores.
Lesser Yellowlegs at Oyehut Wildlife Area, Ocean Shores.

There was a good mix of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs at Oyehut Wildlife Area.

Short-billed Dowitcher, Westport, WA.
Short-billed Dowitcher, Westport, WA.

There are a bunch of Marbled Godwits at the Westport Marina, but I used this opportunity to get a comparison shot of Short-billed Dowitcher with the godwits.  It was a bit foggy still, but the birds cooperated. We sat on the beach and let the tide come in and push the birds towards us.  This works because by the time the birds get close, we're just another part of the landscape, not some scary predator.

Red-necked Phalarope, Oyehut Wildlife Area.
Red-necked Phalarope, Oyehut Wildlife Area.

This year there are a lot of Red-necked Phalaropes at the Oyehut ponds and at the Midway Beach access point ponds.

Snowy Plover, Grayland/Midway beaches, Washington outer coast.
Snowy Plover, Grayland/Midway beaches, Washington outer coast.

Well, it's not a great image, but it is a Snowy Plover, and  since there are so few of them around, I'm going to include it.  I wish the fog would have held off a little longer, minutes before it was crystal clear on the beach, and of course that would have made a much better image!

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

(PS This brings me to 117 birds photographed for the year. )