Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Long weekend birding update - Saturday evening paddling

Kory Renaud and I took his canoe into the Pelee marsh on Saturday evening. The conditions were perfect - warm but not too hot, calm, and perfect lighting for photography.

As we approached the exposed mud in Lake Pond, we observed the first shorebirds of the evening. A few Spotted Sandpipers, a handful of Short-billed Dowitchers, and some rather skittish Black-bellied Plovers.

Short-billed Dowitcher - Point Pelee marsh

One nice thing about approaching shorebirds by kayak or canoe is that they do not seem startled by your presence. These dowitcher photos are all full frame, and at one point I was photographing them from 5 feet away - the minimum focusing distance for my lens.

Short-billed Dowitchers - Point Pelee marsh

It is not just shorebirds that tolerate a closer approach. This Sandhill Crane let us float by at a distance of no more than 10 or 15 feet!

Sandhill Crane - Point Pelee marsh

I spent a few minutes with the Semipalmated Sandpiper and was super happy how some of the shots came out. Here are some favorites...

Semipalmated Sandpiper - Point Pelee marsh

Semipalmated Sandpiper - Point Pelee marsh

The combination of soft lighting, a close approach, a low angle, and the juvenile shorebirds' sharp plumage makes for easy conditions to take good photos. Sitting in the boat as the sun set, listening to a medley of marsh birds and hearing Sandhill Cranes overhead while viewing shorebirds from less than 10 feet away - this was birding at it's finest!

Sandhill Cranes - Point Pelee marsh 

West Cranberry Pond held more mudflats and a nice variety of shorebirds. The biggest surprise was this adult Sanderling, looking a little out of place in the mud! In my experience this species is almost never seen away from sand during migration.

Sanderling - Point Pelee marsh 

It is now getting later into the shorebird season, and the first few White-rumped Sandpipers are trickling through. Unlike most of the shorebirds present, this White-rumped Sandpiper is an adult. Adult shorebirds migrate before juveniles, so the first wave of a species migrating through is composed of adults. Some of the early autumn migrants, like adult Least Sandpipers and  adult Short-billed Dowitchers, are already in their South American wintering grounds. The juveniles however are still common.

White-rumped Sandpiper - Point Pelee marsh 

As we approached one mudflat, a few Caspian Terns took off. This youngster hung back and started yelling at what were presumably its siblings.

Caspian Tern - Point Pelee marsh 

Caspian Tern - Point Pelee marsh 

This juvenile Semipalmated Plover also allowed me to observe it from a few feet away. Simply amazing to be so close to a bird like this!

Semipalmated Plover - Point Pelee marsh 

Semipalmated Plover - Point Pelee marsh 

And since I've been focusing on some of the smaller shorebirds for most of this post, here is a Greater Yellowlegs to change things up. These birds have a tendency to be skittish and loud, often scaring everything else away, but from a boat even the "yelling"legs sat quietly.

Greater Yellowlegs - Point Pelee marsh 


  1. Wow. You sure did get some nice shots!! Can't wait to get back out there and snap a few frames myself.

  2. Thanks Kory! And thanks again for the use of your canoe. Hopefully you like the new lens - I think you'll be pretty happy with it!