Friday, May 4, 2018

Post #136 - Hello neotropics, goodbye shorebirds - with photos!

As anxiously as I await the return of neotropical migrants each spring, their arrival is admittedly a bit bittersweet since it signals the looming departure of shorebirds, my favorite and most obliging local photographic subjects. Since I moved to the Bay Area exactly a year ago, I've learned a ton about shorebird distribution and behavior, particularly as I tend to visit the same spots over and over. I know which species can be found and photographed on which tides, and I understand how the light and angles change through the seasons. In some ways, I feel that photography has opened me up to a level of behavioral study that traditional birding and its often listing-centric approach completely misses. These last two weeks have been particularly exciting as most of the birds have molted into the breeding garb ahead of their own migration back to the arctic. Here are a few shots to send the bird off. I hope you enjoy them.

***Click all images for nice, higher resolution view***

Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 1000

Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Canon 400mm f/4 IS DO II on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri
 Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Breeding plumage Dunlin had been a particular photographic nemesis, so I decided to take control of that matter this week. Realizing the birds were in beautiful plumage bit would be gone very soon, I decided to crawl a long way out on the bay mudflats to get the shot I wanted. It took about an hour and half of crawling and pausing, but they finally got completely used to me and let me do my thing.

Operation Dunlin - here was my track. 
I probably crawled 60-70 yeards.

And here's what I looked like afterwards.

 Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Canon 500mm f/4 IS +1.4x III on EOS 5D Mark IV
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640

I can't wait for these guys to return in the fall! As for what will happen the next few months, I probably spend a lot of time photographing terns, though I'll have to drive south on the bay to best do it. Otherwise, summer birding and photography is kinda slow around here, so I'll have to work really hard to scrape out shots in the next few months. Gotta get a good Pigeon Guillemot flight shot in Pillar Point Harbor.....


  1. grear pics - I’m curious of your perspective on a ‘green list’ question. I flew to chicago for a work conference. I walked from my hotel to a park to bird and walked back to the hotel. Decent round trip mileage. Do those birds ‘count’ as green birds or (and potentially rightfully so) does the flight kill that.

  2. The birds are certainly green as you walked, but I don't think that means anything from a listing standpoint. A true green list is necessarily anchored at a particular place. For example, my home-based SF Bay Area bike list is anchored at my apartment as every trip begins and ends there, overnighters included. Everything I see from my bike in the Bay Are counts towards that list, but nothing I see walking or biking anywhere else on earth matters in the context of the home-grounded green list. If you green bird from that same hotel again, those individual lists can be summed. But you can't sum your green lists if they are generated from different hotels or points in the city. The reality is that having running green list from anywhere other than your primary residence is mostly pointless. I hope that makes sense!

  3. That completely makes sense and is what I figured - just curious about your take as you’ve probably given this a lot more thought than me.

    1. With no life beyond biking and birding, I end up obsessing about trifles and technicalities such as this! Cheers!