Turnstones and Mating Horseshoes

Ruddy Turnstones and Mating Horseshoe Crabs

This was just gross.  I was just so wonderfully “lucky” to witness swarms of horseshoe crabs mating along the edge of a popular nature reserve near Atlantic City.  These crabs come in and lay eggs in the sand and mud along beaches and the water’s edge.

Apparently, these crabs are not.  They are more related to spiders and scorpions than they are to crabs, but that is what we call them.  Speaking of relations, given the way they mate, it has to be impossible to tell what crab is related to what crab.  They pile up and well….. barf.  And to top it all off, a seagull.  Yes a seagull will stand right on top of the pile of revelers.

The laid eggs then feed shorebirds like the Red Knot, who’s Antarctic to Arctic migrations are tied to the horseshoe crab’s breeding cycle.  They depend on the eggs for food.  The fishing industry began harvesting these crabs for eel and conch bait in the 1990’s and some bird populations dropped to just 20% of what they were.  NJ and Delaware now have moratoriums on harvesting horseshoe crabs.

Ruddy Turnstones

These are just very pretty shore birds and a treat for me when I see them.  Click here for more Ruddy Turnstones at Barnegat Jetty.  They peck around in the mud and sand where the horseshoe crabs were recreating.  I hear the Turnstones chatting amongst themselves:

“Wipe your beak, you crow.”


“Yumm…. I think I got a oyster with that one.”

“Slow down!  You’ll eat a bloodworm if you aren’t careful”

Besides the Turnstones, there were swarms of gulls and geese crowding in to have dinner. 

Camera Settings and Processing

I just used my standard settings, and adjusted aperture to speed or slowdown the shutter, or just to deepen depth of field.  Nothing fancy at all.  I did very little tweaking in post processing except for cropping and darkening some bright parts of the pics.  The reason everything worked out so well was all in the lighting.  It was great.  It was later in the afternoon, the golden glow was glowing, the contrasts were not harsh, and it wasn’t dark enough to require higher ISOs.  Perfect light equals easy shooting.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS II
  • Canon 500mm L f/4.0 IS
  • Emetrol for my nausea

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Birds, Bugs and Critters, Horseshoe Crab, and Ruddy Turnstones. Tags: 500mm and 5D Mk II.

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