Tag Archives: Shore Birds
Each spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed along the pacific beaches and the river estuaries of the Washington coastline on their migration northward. The peak in migration typically occurs the last week in April. This concentration of birds offer people the chance to view and with a little luck photograph several species.
With this in mind we headed for the Washington coast last weekend. Grays Harbor hosts a shorebird festival each year (this year it will be May 4-6th) which typically draws large crowds. We thought it would be wise to avoid the crowds and go a week or two early so we rented a motel room in Ocean Shores and planned to visit the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge a little before high tide the next day.
The day started great, nice weather and high tide not scheduled until early afternoon. We had a time to sleep in, have a nice breakfast and drive down the coast. When we arrived at the refuge things started going bad… first it was too warm to leave the dog in the car and he couldn’t go into the refuge so Shirleen decided to stay out in the parking area with him. I started off a brisk pace towards the Sandpiper Trail. Everyone I met had a long face and it didn’t take me long to realize why. There were no shorebirds to be seen that day. None… not any… a few seagulls so far out in the estuary that they were just white specks. Either the migration was starting later this year or all the birds were somewhere else. I returned to the car after a warm, fruitless walk around the refuge totally bummed. The only plus that afternoon was that Shirleen had gotten several nice shots of a Marsh Wren when she was walking the dog.
Low and behold on the beach right in front of our motel there was a flock of shore birds feeding.
Now on this part of the Washington Coast cars are allowed to drive on the beach and there were a lot of people walking their dogs, kids running, kites flying and well …. what do you think the chances were of us getting anywhere close enough to the birds to take pictures before someone scared them all away?
As it turned out, our chances were great. The flock seemed to be in a feeding frenzy, as you approached them they would run or fly away just enough to keep a safe 10-15 foot distance from you and then go back to feeding. We approached slowly taking pictures as we went and the birds just sort of flowed around us. It didn’t take us long to get right in the middle of the flock and shoot pictures to our hearts content. We were both shooting with 100-400mm telephoto lenses which worked out well, we could pull back to the 100mm to get groups of birds when they flew and zoom out to the 400mm range to get close-ups of the birds feeding. The late, warm afternoon lighting made for some great shooting and we came away with literally hundreds of pictures. Here is a few of our favorites.
If any of you make it to the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival we would love to see your pictures and hear about your experiences.