Showing posts with label semipalmated sandpiper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label semipalmated sandpiper. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2019

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper with prey, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

A semipalmated sandpiper pulls prey from the sand in Massachusetts

It was fun to watch this small flock of semipalmated sandpipers rapidly work over the wet sand left behind by the receding tide along the Lot 6 beach in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The pace they were moving up the beach suggested that there wasn't much left to feed on, but this sandpiper found what appears to be a small worm, which was quickly swallowed.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Preening sandpipers, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of two semipalmated sandpipers, with one sleeping and one preening

One of the pleasures of watching wildlife is when they are totally indifferent to your presence. After slowly approaching a large flock of sandpipers resting on the beach, the shorebirds simply went about their morning business. This pair of semipalmated sandpipers was near the front of the group, with one napping while the other preened its feathers.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Roosting semipalmated sandpiper, Sandy Point State Reservation

Resting semipalmated sandpiper on the beach

High tide was right around sunrise on this September morning, and after following a small flock of sanderlings feeding along the beach at first light, I decided to walk to the tip of Sandy Point State Reservation. With so much of the tidal flats submerged below the tide, I figured there was a reasonable chance the shorebirds would be roosting somewhere on the beach. Sure enough, I didn't get too far down the beach before spotting the first group of semipalmated plovers at the edge of a larger flock of mixed shorebirds. I slowly belly-crawled my way into their presence and enjoyed watching the flock rest and preen, including this semipalmated sandpiper.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Leaning in, Semipalmated sandpiper at Parker River NWR

Striding semipalmated sandpiper at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts

I read an article recently about photographing wildlife at local parks. It included a thought that resonated with me about looking for a dynamic behavioral moment that can make even a common animal seem more interesting. I tend to find sandpipers fascinating regardless of what they are doing, but as this semipalmated sandpiper slightly changed directions and shifted its weight to the right, its lean added a bit of extra interest to this frame.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Low-angle view of a smipalmated sandpiper on Plum Island, Massachusetts

The small flock of semipalmated sandpipers I was spending time with on this August morning were in constant motion. Both rapidly probing the sand and steadily cruising down the beach. This bird thankfully paused for just long enough to give me a nice pose with two tiny droplets of water falling from its bill.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper probing the sand, Parker River NWR

Semipalmated sandpiper with its bill in the sand in Massachusetts

With their rapid sewing machine motion as they probe the wet sand, it can be challenging to get a tack-sharp shot of a sandpiper with its beak deep in the sand -- but this frame kept all the details. I didn't see what it pulled up, but hopefully it was tasty.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Semipalmated sandpiper stalking the tidal flats in Massachusetts

I went out for a sunrise session on Plum Island yesterday in the hope of finding some friendly sandpipers. I started at Sandy Point State Reservation, and when the light was beautiful, the peeps were skittish. It was a bit disappointing to see only a few small flocks of sandpipers despite the large swaths of exposed tidal flats. After losing the early light with nothing to show for it, I decided to head up the island and try one of the newly opened stretches of beach (Lots 6 & 7 both had beach access again, now that the piping plovers have fledged). I could see larger flocks of shorebirds to the north in the area that was still closed for nesting, and just a small flock of 4 semipalmated sandpipers was cruising the beach to the south. The light wasn't great and I didn't come back with too many keepers in the bunch, but it was a treat to quickly earn their trust as we leap-frogged each other down the beach. They were looking for food at the high edge of the tidal flats, and I could reliably drop myself 15 yards in front of them and wait for them to approach and pass at close range in front of my lens. We did this over an over again as we made our way down the beach together.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper in evening light, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper on the beach in evening light in Massachusetts

Digging deep into the archives for this one. It was taken on a terrific fall evening in 2012 that I spent with a flock of mixed shorebirds resting and preening on the beach. It was heavy overcast for most of my time there, but as the sun got closer to the horizon, it slipped below the cloud layer and cast beautiful warm light over everything -- including this semipalmated sandpiper resting near an old log on the beach.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Semipalmated sandpiper on the tidal flats, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper on the tidal flats, Plum Island, Massachusetts

A very low morning tide opened up a huge swatch of tidal flats at Sandy Point State Reservation. The small mounds and dark sand in this region of the beach made for an interesting setting for the lone semipalmated sandpiper I encountered. In my trip preparations the night before, the eBird reports from the previous few days had sightings of flocks with 150+ semipalmated sandpipers and dunlin. Given the time of year, there was a great chance that they’d be showing some of their summer colors as well. While I had hoped that the low tide would keep the flocks foraging on the flats around the southern edge of the island, as it turned out, they happened to be further up the estuary while I was in the park (which I observed on a quick stop at the Bill Forward Bird Blind on my drive out). It’s hard to pass up a chance to spend time with a sandpiper in non-basic plumage, and this individual gave me a couple of fleeting opportunities as it traversed the flats.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Searching semipalmated sandpiper, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Searching semipalmated sandpiper in Parker River NWR
A semipalmated sandpiper searches the exposed sands for a late afternoon meal in Parker River NWR

On my most recent trip to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the only sandpipers I saw and photographed were sanderlings. The exception was this lone semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) mixed in with the flock, which gave me a few chances to diversify my photographs from the outing.

View more of my photographs of sandpipers.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection, Sandy Point State Reservation

Semipalmated sandpiper reflection

I have a habit of keeping tons of images that I'll never do anything with. On my first pass after downloading the images from a trip, I'll delete anything that doesn't meet my standards for focus or sharpness. I'll mark images that have a particularly strong composition (flag with a "P" in Lightroom) to come back for another look, but I generally just let the normal images take up space on my disks and fill up my Lightroom catalogs. I basically make the argument that if it's sharp, perhaps I'll find a purpose for it later. I've really come to the realization though that there are tons of images I'll probably never look at again, and that I'll certainly never do anything with. So, I've started going through old folders and trimming out things that just don't meet a minimum level of compositional interest. It's kind of fun to re-experience old outings, and while my primary focus is cutting images, I've found a few diamonds in the rough that I had no idea were in there. This image of a semipalmated sandpiper and its reflection in the sand is one such example. I have no idea how this wasn't favorited when I took an initial pass through this folder, but I'm excited to find it again!

View my twenty favorite shorebird images in my Shorebirds Portfolio.

Monday, September 10, 2012


A semipalmated sandpiper is focused on finding prey

It had been a while since I had touched my camera when I went out on this mid-August trip. Actually, much longer than "a while" -- especially compared to the frequency I became accustomed to in California. It had been over three months since I tried to make a meaningful image. Worse yet, it had been just as long since I was able to be out enjoying and connecting with nature. Throughout my growth as a person and a photographer during the past half-decade, I had really come to rely on these moments of connection with nature to help to re-center myself. So in the end, enough was enough, and I had to prioritize some time to get outside. One weekend evening was all I could take, but it would have to be enough. My wife and I hopped in the car and drove out for the sunset on Plum Island on the North Shore.

I was almost giddy with excitement to be going through my pre-trip rituals of charging batteries, formatting memory cards, and cleaning lens surfaces. Donning my outdoor clothes and hiking shoes gave my heart an extra bounce to its step. All of these things were leading to seeing the ocean, feeling the breeze, and smelling the warm salty air. I could feel it in my soul, and couldn't wait to hit the sand.

When we arrived at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge entrance, I was hit with the sad realization that it was summer in the Northeast and not along the California coast. Lot #1 was recently reopened to the public after the plovers had moved on, and it was packed. Signs along the road warned that there was no parking available at Sandy Point, my ultimate destination. I stuck to my plans though, and figured that 90 minutes before sunset, and very near to dinner time, most cars would be heading home. When we reached the end of the island, we were thankful that someone was pulling out of a spot in the overcrowded lot just when we got there. Soon enough I was pulling out my gear from the back seat.

What a refreshing moment it was to step out of the car and feel the coastal air. As we made our way along the trail, I could see that the beach was packed. There were excited children and loud families everywhere. Quickly, I realized that I may not be able to find that connection with nature that I so desperately sought. Amidst the chaos of a summer's evening along the shore, I spotted a small group of peeps feeding in the sand exposed by the ebbing tide. "Peeps!" I called to my wife, who knew that she'd be on her own to wander the beach for a little while now that my target was sighted. I watched from a distance as a beachwalker strolled right at them, and thankfully the flock parted and they remained in the area.

This was a good sign that these were friendly birds (and most likely naive juveniles), and I made a quicker than usual approach. Soon enough, I was down in the sand seeking an eye-level view. I laid on the shutter and reveled in the rapid fire sound of the birth of new images. Even though it had been a while since I used my camera, the feeling quickly came back, and I lost myself in the world of these small shorebirds feeding in the sand.

After a few minutes, the silence in my mind was disturbed by my own thoughts. How peculiar that I was interrupting myself -- but that's what this particular thought was about. Somewhere in those moments of lying in the sand and framing the birds, the realization came to me that I had actually found the connection I was looking for. It didn't matter that kids were splashing and yelling their shouts of joy around me, because I didn't hear them. It didn't matter that people were looking at this strange guy covered in sand photographing tiny birds that many people don't even notice. What mattered was that I was there, feeling nature -- breathing the air, sensing the pulse of the waves, feeding off the energy of the birds. Every other thought dropped away from my mind, and I was fully in the moment. Focused.

It was, ironically, this trip to a crowded summer beach on the Massachusetts coast that helped to solidify my understanding of the personal connection with nature that I have sought out for so many years. There's just something about being in that moment, completely focused and absorbed by the tiny piece of the world visible through my telephoto lens. While I love to experience nature while hiking, I do find a much deeper connection when I have my camera along. For a long time I've wondered why that was. But now I think it all makes sense to me. When my eye is pressed to the viewfinder, it's not just my vision that's reduced to only what is focused within the frame. For those moments, my mind is singularly focused too. There's no thought of unanswered emails, tasks left unfinished, chores yet to be done, and the rest of my everlasting to-do list. Everything else is gone. My entire being is focused on what I can see in the lens, on feeling the energy of the animal I'm watching, and on working to capture just a tiny piece of the magic of that moment in my images. What a truly meaningful experience it is to have a singular focus, even if it only lasts for the fleeting time of a wildlife encounter. It's no wonder I keep coming back for more. I'm already looking forward to the next time I can bring my eye to the viewfinder and find the quiet solitude that it brings to my mind.