Shorebirds

One of my favorite photographic subjects is shorebirds.  These little waders utilize shorelines, shallow lakes and ponds, and mudflats as feeding grounds.  They have personality and that comes across in the pictures that you capture.  At first shorebirds may seem impossible to photograph.  They are generally in groups and it only takes one bird in a thousand to spook, and everyone will take off in what seems to be a choreographed aerial ballet.  Take heart and stay right where you are because they often return, be it a little farther off.  Sit quietly and they will become completely engrossed in their hunt for invertebrates and other small critters.  If you are patient and quiet they will often even come too close for photography.  I have spent a lot of time waiting for shorebirds to get further away from me so my 500mm lens can be properly focused.

The single best location that I have been for shorebirds was at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico.  It was a May visit with my pal Ron and we were kept busy with shorebirds and wading birds for several hours.  Locally the most productive location for me has been along the shores of Lake Michigan near the Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin.  It can be a boom or bust location, but when it is hot it is very hot.  This stretch of beach is very narrow and that works in your favor.  Sit on the beach maybe 10 feet from the water and sooner or later the shorebirds will ignore you and squeeze past you while they work the shoreline.  I have had Dunlins and Ruddy Turnstones walk over my outstretched legs.  Some years mudflats develop nears the piers and that provides you with a bigger variety of species.

I used a tripod and a Nikon 500mm f4 lens for all of the pictures below.  For the photo of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, I added a Nikon 1.4 tele converter.  I shot all of these images at ISO 200.  Shooting at 100 left me a little short of shutter speed/depth of field for each of these images.  ISO 400 would have given me just a little bit too much noise for my tastes.

Dunlin.  1/640 sec., f7.1 at Wind Point.

My stock photos include some shorebirds in breeding plumage and some in alternative plumage with a few species in both.  I have the Sanderling in both types but actually like the white off season plumage the best.  1/640 sec., f8. At Wind Point.

I have the opposite feeling about the Black-bellied Plover.  I have only seen these guys in their summer colors through a spotting scope, but usually seem to find them in autumn when the color is white.  They are still a very cool bird. 1/640 sec., f8 at Wind Point.

Some shorebirds are almost as large as small wading birds, and are quite fancy as well.  American Avocets usually will cause any photographer to perk up.  1/1000 sec, f5.6 at Bosque del Apache.

Ruddy Turnstone.  1/125 sec., f8 at Wind Point.

Tiny, fast shorebirds like the Semipalmated Plover below can be a challenge to photograph.  Stick with it.  All moving birds stop eventually just like all perched birds will eventually fly. 1/400 sec., f6.3 at Wind Point.

Many people do not think of our most common shorebird (in this region), the Killdeer as a shorebird.  You can find them everywhere from prairies to residential neighborhoods but they still like to wade and look for food.  They are a visually engaging Plover and are (to me) always worth a few shots.  The top picture was made along a Lake Michigan shore, but not Wind Point and the second was taken in a parking lot in an Illinois state park.  1/320 sec. f5.6 (top photo), and 1/640 sec. and f 8.

I thank each of you for stopping by at Earth Images blog.  I hope you come back often and if you like you can join others and subscribe to receive e-mails of each post as they are published.

God Bless

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