Bird photographers will often sit in blinds for hours or days and travel to faraway places where migratory birds gather by the thousands. Their payoffs for such intentional hard work are prize winning images worthy of Audubon recognition. Often they lug heavy and expensive equipment to their location.
But, with just a little bit of knowledge of your local bird activities and some patience, you too can have some fantastic bird imagery. The Bay Area is beginning to see many migratory birds coming into their favorite watering holes or final destinations.
I love our waterfowl and shorebirds because they are a little larger and accessible for medium telephoto-lens photography. Also they often feed in shallow and still waters. If you sit still in one place for a while sometimes they become accustomed to your presence and feed just a few yards away from you.
Two of my favorite local places to get fairly close to migratory birds are the lakes in Golden Gate Park and the waters of the Larkspur bird refuge just off of Highway 101. The stilts and avocets as well as a variety of diving and dabbler ducks are making their way to Larkspur now. When the waters are low you can see how long the legs are of the stilts and the avocets, and they make wonderful subjects for reflections.
Black-necked Stilts have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos. They inhabit shallow wetlands from the western United States to Central America and parts of South America. Locally, Black-necked Stilts are found in salt ponds, flooded lowlands, or shallow lagoons. They wade in shallow waters to capture their meals of aquatic invertebrates and fish.
Daily delectable treats include craw-fish, brine flies, brine shrimp, beetles, and tadpoles. They peck, snatch, and plunge their heads into the water in pursuit of their food. Along with the round and tiny Sanderlings, they work their beaks into the murky waters almost like rapidly-running sewing machine needles. They will also herd fish into shallow waters to trap them there.
The Greater Yellowlegs Sandpiper, a common long-legged shorebird found in freshwater ponds and tidal marshes, frequently announces its presence by its piercing alarm calls. These birds feed on small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small fish, frogs, and occasionally seeds and berries. This week a half dozen greater yellowlegs were sharing the shoreline at the Larkspur bird refuge with the stilts, avocets, stints and several dabblers including pintails.
Although these birds and many others are searching among the identical food sources, they all peacefully occupy the same territory. We humans often struggle with issues of occupancy rights. So who is for the birds now?