A morning with Shorebirds

September 21, 2017

Semipalmated Sandpiper, North Carolina coastSemipalmated Sandpiper, North Carolina coast

They are not the most colorful and showy of the bird world. They are not the largest or the most iconic species, either.  But the shorebirds are to me some of the most fascinating of all birds.  These small, drab birds of mostly grays and browns; birds that are often lumped as one--sandpipers-- and most shorter than your smart phone and weigh much less are birds that I always enjoy photographing.  

Some breed in the short summer of Canada, Alaska, some in the Arctic, and travel thousands of miles during migration; a journey that crosses continents, carries them through hurricane season in the Atlantic along with untold other storms, dogs chasing them while they are trying to find enough food to pack on enough fat to fuel the next leg of migration, people taking over the beach where they rest and digest during high tide, and merlin or peregrine falcons following their migration and picking off the slow or those that zigged when they should have zagged.  It's amazing that any make it at all.

Many make it, but many don't.  And for the northernmost breeding species, most are not producing enough chicks to replace the adults that are falling victim to chronic disturbance, habitat loss, predation, and other threats.  They're populations are declining; numbers of some species are less than half of what they were a couple of decades ago.  How many will there be a couple of decades from now?

I guess that's why I enjoy them. I'm amazed that this little Western Sandpiper was probably in western Alaska not long ago and only it knows where it will go from here.  I'm careful not to disturb any of them as I lay flat and motionless on the wet sand and do my best to blend in.  I don't want my presence to deter them from finding all the food they need to make it through the fall and winter, and get back to the Alaska to begin the cycle all over again.

 


Archive
January February March April May (1) June (1) July August (1) September October November December
January February March (1) April May June July August September October November December
January (1) February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February (2) March (4) April (1) May (2) June (1) July August (2) September October November December (5)
January (2) February March (1) April (1) May June July August September October November December