Monday 4 August 2014

A Three Sandpiper Morning

Aug 1/14 White Rock Pier/Blackie Spit/Tsawwassen Ferry 

7a.m White Rock

Yesterday Raymond Ng and I waited an hour for the sun to rise on the White Rock beach. We were there to photograph a Willet. Neither of us had birded much in July so we were hopeful the photo shoot would be productive. The challenge is that in the early morning the Willet tends to hang out on the shaded part of the beach. After an hour of patiently waiting and just as the sun and Willet were in perfect alignment a beachcomber flushed the bird, leaving us with little to show for our efforts. You win some, you lose some and i'll leave out the expletives!
So the next day I decided to give it another try. I arrived to find the Willet closer to the pier and in the only shaft of early morning sunlight available. Again a walker disturbed the bird but by this time I already had a few shots in the bag.

Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
The Willet is one of the  larger members of the sandpiper family. It has a wingspan of 26 inches.

7.45 a.m Blackie Spit, Crescent Beach 

As I had time on my hands I decided to try for the Long-billed Curlew at nearby Blackie Spit. The tide was creeping in as I arrived. I spotted the bird resting on one leg which gave me the opportunity to approach while getting the sun at my back. After twenty minutes creeping across the sand and mud I was close enough for a few shots. I spent about twenty minutes photographing various poses, even one with a reflection, finally the bird walking away at its own pace. I backed off and we both went about our day.
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)

You your way, i'll go mine!
The Long-billed Curlew is a large sandpiper with a wing span of 35 inches. Listed as uncommon.

11.00 a.m Tsawwassen 

A business meeting at 9.30  meant I would loose the good light, so by the time I got to the ferry terminal the light was less than ideal. Backlight and shimmering heat of the rocks made photography a little challenging. However, I decided to try for a few shots to make it a three sandpiper day.
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
The quality and direction of light had by mid morning deteriorated so much that these two shots lack the quality and 'feel' of the Willet and Long-Billed Dowitcher photographed earlier in the morning. I'm sure a birder would be happy to see them but for the photographer these are just ID shots. The solution is to go again, much earlier and hope for the birds to co-operate.

Photographed with a D300s, 500mm F4 and 1.4x converter.

It's never too late to start birding!

John Gordon

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