Sunday, January 10, 2016
When I was putting together my Favorite Photographs of 2015 post, I had a hard time winnowing down the number of piping plover chicks to include. In the end, I still selected plovers for 3 of the 9 photos, which felt a bit heavy-handed, but it was so special to share space with these curious young birds multiple times throughout the summer. This photo helps to illustrate just how inquisitive they were. There I was, lying in the sand photographing the chicks as they scurried around the beach, and this one took a real interest in trying to figure out what I was. It came close enough to step into the shadow that was cast by the low hanging sunrise and the hat I was wearing. From my experience visiting the beach a few times over the summer, the chicks were very curious about the photographers in the sand -- often coming well within the minimum focusing distance of my lens.
View more photographs of piping plovers
Saturday, January 9, 2016
This trip to Parker River NWR in October 2014 was one of the most productive sandpiper encounters I've ever had. I came across a very friendly flock of sanderlings a little before sunset, and I stayed with them until it was too dark to shoot anymore. As they went through their evening rituals of feeding, preening, and bathing, the sun went from subtle warmth behind high clouds, to brilliantly golden as it slipped to the top of the dunes, to deep pastels as day faded into night. It was one of those encounters that left me feeling so connected to nature, one that in the moment you hope can last forever, but ultimately I had to force myself to slowly back away and head to the car as darkness spread over the beach.
View more photographs of sanderlings
Friday, November 27, 2015
A belated Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you enjoyed your meal and socializing socializing with family and friends as much as this sanderling did the day before. A busy semester has kept me inside since September, so it felt great to finally get out to the beach for a sunset on Wednesday. While the temptation is always there to search for snowy owls on a winter trip to Plum Island, I was focused on finding a flock of shorebirds to photograph. I started my trip at the Lot 6 beach, and from the crest of the dunes I saw a small flock (about 30 birds) of sanderlings and dunlin. It didn't take too long to win their trust, and it felt awesome to lay out in the cold sand as the flock surrounded me. The extreme low tide this week seemed to provide an extra feast for the birds, as there were many places where the whole flock dug their bills into the sand while making quite an excited and loud ruckus of "peeps." The party scene ended abruptly though when something spooked the flock and they took off up the beach. While I didn't get to photograph them in the best light of the day, it was still invigorating to spend time with shorebirds again.
View more photographs of sanderlings.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
I'm always preferential to the sunrise when I have the chance, but last autumn I had a couple of really successful sunset trips in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. I spent about an hour working with a friendly flock of sandpipers at the Lot 7 beach in pleasant evening light, but as the sun prepared to slip behind the dunes this sandpiper really started glowing in the warm final rays.
View more photographs of sanderlings.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
While I was watching this least tern incubating its two eggs on the beach, I had the pleasure of observing its partner bring it a fish. In the excitement of this unexpected moment, I unfortunately clipped the tips of the wings of the bird who stopped by only briefly enough to hand off the fish and fly off again. While I'm excited to have a nice record of the moment, I'm a bit bummed that I made such a technical error. I waited around for a while longer to see if I would be lucky to witness another exchange, but unfortunately it never came. A valuable lesson that I've heard before, but failed to execute, is that when photographing birds that are likely to flap their wings (like in this case, or especially with birds that are bathing in shallow water), it's always better to zoom out and leave extra space. You can always crop away the excess later, but you can't regain the tips of those wings in post-processing.
View more photographs of terns.
Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!
Friday, August 7, 2015
Another interesting tidbit I came across while reading up on piping plovers recently, in addition to what I posted yesterday about plover chicks being entirely responsible for feeding themselves, is related to the role of the parents. While both the male and female share responsibility for incubating the nest, it is relatively common for the female to abandon the brood within a week of the chicks hatching. That leaves the male in charge of protecting the chicks until they fledge a few weeks later. I'm not sure if this is a male or female parent, but there is a very young chick tucked under its left wing. You can see a tiny leg sticking out and the top of its downy head under the popped-up feathers.
View more photographs of plovers
Thursday, August 6, 2015
When I was looking up information about how to identify a piping plover fledgling, I came across an interesting fact -- piping plover chicks are entirely responsible for feeding themselves! While watching the chicks on the beach at Sandy Point Reservation on multiple occasions this summer, I was interested to observe how much time they seemed to spend catching bugs. They appeared to be on a constant search for food, which now makes a lot of sense to me. It would also seem to explain why all of the chicks in the same clutch would often run in separate directions after warming up under their parent. Pretty incredible to think that a few hours after they hatch, these adorable tiny predators are already leaving the nest and looking for prey.
Browse more of my photographs of plovers.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Nothing much to be blue about on this morning (or any morning when you're out to do some photography at sunrise!) unless you're the morning light reflecting off the water in the background. I took this photograph on a mid-July trip to Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island, and I suspect that this is a fledgling from one of the piping plover clutches I saw as tiny chicks in early June.
View more of my photographs of piping plovers.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
The uneven sand along the high tide line of Sandy Point State Reservation made for an fun setting to photograph this piping plover chick as it curiously checked out the photographer laying in the sand. At times, some objects in the wrack obstructed the frame, but when it stepped into the right location, it was exciting to capture this dreamy effect of an exaggeratedly shallow depth of field.
Browse more photographs of plovers in my Plovers Gallery.
Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
I've been pursuing clean foregrounds and backgrounds on the beach with my shorebird photography lately, but it was really exciting when this tiny chick started walking toward me through the tide-line of shells.
This interesting setting provided some variations in color and pattern to set up the scene and really helped to illustrate just how tiny this young chick was.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
This summer, I have primarily been enthralled with photographing the piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts, but there are other species of breeding birds in the park as well. While there were a handful of little tern chicks running about the beach already, this adult was taking care of its two eggs nestled into a small depression in the sand.
View more photographs of terns and gulls.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
I took a trip out to Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island again last week, and the baby plovers are growing up. There were two youngsters with this parent in the early morning light, which were significantly larger than when I was there in June, but not yet fledged. I did see a couple of really young chicks too, as well as an adult plover that appeared to be incubating a nest. What a special place that relatively small stretch of beach is with all of the breeding birds.
View more of my photographs of plovers.
Sunday, July 19, 2015
I’ve written many times on this blog about my love of experiencing the first light of the day. While the brilliant colors of sunset are just as visually pleasing, the sunrise provides a much stronger fuel for my soul. With the less than ideal amount of sleep I get during the semester, coupled with the lengthening days of spring feeding into summer, it had been a long time since I felt the warm glow of the first rays touch my face. Even though Plum Island is over an hour away and we were near the earliest mornings of the year due to the solstice, the gravitational pull of the chance to photograph tiny piping plover chicks in warm morning light was strong enough to get me out for the sunrise twice last month and again earlier this week. There’s magic at the leading edge of the day, and it feels great to be reacquainted again!
Sunday, July 12, 2015
I must say, after watching the job these piping plover parents have on a few separate mornings last month, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to keep track of the chicks! These tender moments of warming them together in a single group seemed to be short-lived, as a few minutes later all four chicks will inevitably be running in four separate directions around the beach. It’s amazing to me that the adults are able to keep track of them all!
View more photographs of piping plovers, as well as other plover species.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
One of the most fun things about photographing these piping plover chicks as they explored the beach outside of their roped-off protected area at Sandy Point State Reservation is how curious they were. On many occasions, as I was quietly lying in the sand nearby, the chicks would come well within my minimum focusing distance of 8 feet. No complaints here though – it was a great chance to pull my eye away from the viewfinder and enjoy a close encounter of the adorable kind.
View more plover photography.
Friday, July 10, 2015
I took a Friday off in June to do some photography. The forecast wasn’t great, and I almost canceled my plans, but a Thursday night read of the Plum Island bird sighting reports convinced me to go. I had seen that folks were still spotting some sandpipers that seemed late to leave for the tundra, so the potential chance to photograph some peeps in summer colors was enough to get me to drag myself out of bed early. I had a delightful time wandering the beach and watching the courting rituals of least terns, and it felt great to have my camera in hand again. After the best light faded, I decided to start heading back to my car – and much to my surprise and delight, I saw a small flock of tiny plover chicks zig-zagging across the sand. Limited time in harsh light wasn’t enough, so with some helpful suggestions from my wife, I went back for sunrise on Sunday and then again a week later when this pair of images was taken. Multiple plover families were cruising the beach and drawing quite a crowd of photographers each morning.
View more of my photographs of plovers.
Monday, May 4, 2015
I finally went out looking for shorebirds for the first time near home this year with a trip to Plymouth Beach last night. I saw on eBird that there were recent sightings of hundreds of dunlin there within the last week, which matched my experience last spring. Unfortunately, the shorebirds were no where to be found on my walk to the tip of the peninsula and back. Oh well though, the light was nice and the walk was pleasant -- and it just felt great to be outside breathing in the coastal air again.
The shot above is from a trip to Plymouth Beach that I took at the start of May 2014. It was another outing where I didn't see a ton on my walk out, but as the sun was dropping close to the horizon I met a small flock of dunlin that were preening and resting in the fading light.
View more of my dunlin photography.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
I've been back to Parker River NWR a few times since this October evening with the hopes of having a chance to experience something like this again. Any time spent with a flock of friendly sandpipers is a win in my book, but this particular evening was really special with the colorful reflections of an evening sky.
View more photographs of sanderlings
Monday, December 22, 2014
I saw a small flock of shorebirds near beach #6 on an otherwise quiet afternoon trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. But as I was working my way back up the island I came across a cluster of photographers gathered along the side of the road. As I slowly approached it was easy to see why such a gathering had formed, this beautiful barred owl was perched in clear view at the edge of the forest.
View more photographs of owls and other birds of prey.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
This sanderling put on quite a show while I shared the beach with its flock in October. It was great to watch it splash and clean its feathers, and it finished by standing tall and flapping its wings. I really like this image and had a hard time leaving it out of my top ten Favorite Photographs of 2014. I consider it an honorable mention, but I personally preferred the flying water droplets and splashing action of some other images from this series.