Beach Attack! Sanderlings!

Beach Attack!  Sanderlings!

Beach Attack?? Wha?  C’mon, there was no attack.  I just had to make a bunch of bird pictures sound exciting.  After all, they are all just standing around and pecking around in the muck.  I don’t care, getting these shots and watching these shore birds up close is what I love to do.

I shot these in the fall on a relatively isolated area of the New Jersey shore.  Isolated means there is no road along the beach and you have to park and walk.

Bird Identities

 To understand bird identities, you need to talk to a Bird Psychiatrist.  I call them Birder Brains.  Where there are birds, they are there usually wearing their psychiatry uniforms of a floppy hat, kakhi vest, and spotting scope.  They not only know what kind of bird a bird is, but they understand their behaviors, foods, and political leanings.  I think these birds are Sanderlings but if I have any misidentified, please let me know! 

I am pretty sure there may be some Turnstones among these Sanderlings…  Hmmmm….

Get Down Low

I’ve been trying to get down low for bird shots lately.  I kinda like these pics from this angle, or lack thereof.   Problem is that it is very hard on a 50-something’s body.  My neck, back, and well everything else just doesn’t want to get down this low.  On top of the pain from unnatural body contortions, the sand tears tear into your knees and elbows.  Sheesh!  I was really sore the next day and the story of how I got those brush-burn marks on my knees and elbows is just not cool.

To get these shots, you gotta get your camera down really low.  For some, I got pretty close to the surf and occasionally a wave would wash up around me and my equipment.  I knew I was putting my equipment at risk but I don’t care, I purchased this stuff to use and I don’t mind taking some calculated chances.

Baby your Equipment, then USE IT!!!

My friends know I treat my toys and stuff very well.  Very very well.  But my obsession with taking care of things does not stop me from using it just one bit.  I buy stuff to use, not to look at and polish.  Resale value means absolutely nothing to me if I have to sacrifice the fun of using it.  So, to get these pipers, I knew I had to get down into the sand and possibly get that gritty crap into my equipment.  I did not hesitate one bit.  I had fun and that is the point of all this.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II
  • Canon 500mm L f/4.0 IS
  • Gitzo 3530LS carbon fiber tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head
  • LightRoom 4
  • Ibuprofen

Location Types: Beach. Galleries: Birds and Sanderling. Tags: 500mm, 5D Mk II, and Gitzo Wimberly.

5 Responses to “Beach Attack! Sanderlings!”

  1. Howie March 16, 2013 6:26 pm #

    nice work on the bird pics and the tree branch on the beach.

    I just got a new camera and cant wait to get out but this weather is horrible

  2. Mark P. March 25, 2013 8:32 pm #

    Awesome Sanderling shots. I realize you’re shooting 500mm but you’re in wicked tight on a number of shots and I’ve found those hypercaffeinated birds tough to pin down / get close to — and that was in SC where the pace of life for birds is more relaxed than in NJ. Are you heavily cropping or just drawing them close with the scent of beer?

    I’m just starting getting into the bird ID thing, but a pro ID-ed my shots as Sanderlings and most of yours match that. Others don’t — but then you get into the whole male/female and adult/juvenile thing. We’ll see if I have the patience for all that. Meanwhile, here’s an online resource recommended to me from a fairly serious birder who used to live on Long Island and now in North Carolina. ====>

    Thanks for the great tips, and great shots

    • The Intrepid Amateur March 26, 2013 8:18 am #

      Dude, ID’ing these buggers is tough. To ID them properly, you need to document their location and time of year because plumage changes for breeding and non-breeding seasons, and then, as you pointed out, juveniles can be very different from adults. Then they may be in transition. I recommend not trying too hard on pipers as they are some of the toughest birds to get right.

      So, after consulting some Birder Brains, the verdict is…. well maybe….. the whiter, more checkered ones are Sanderlings, the darker ones are Western Sandpipers, the grey ones are Semipalmated Sandpipers, and the orange legged ones are Ruddy Turnstones. I think.

      The trick I used to get close was really simple…. patients. I watched the direction they were moving along the shore, then got ahead of them, planted myself down, and waited. They will get close but you have to stay very still. Then I cropped the RAWs to make it look like I am closer. Having a high megapixel camera and a high-quality lens really helps get a good looking shot but you still can do this with a modern camera and average zoom. Just be very patient.


  3. Mark Pritchard April 8, 2013 8:34 pm #

    Patience: Hmmm. OK. I’m in. In a few months I’ll have my 70-200 f/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter; a 16GB memory card, a cooler, and lots of patience.

    • The Intrepid Amateur April 8, 2013 8:41 pm #

      To heck with the kid’s college tuition. You will make memories and great art with this equipment. These kids are part of this “Me” generation and got whatever they wanted so now is the time to teach them about priorities… yours!!! Beer and photography…. ah….that’s livin’!

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