Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Monday was Labor Day, making it a three day weekend, so I decided to take advantage of the extra free time and rented a lens. You can pick it up on Thursday afternoon and don't have to return it until Tuesday morning for the cost of a daily rental. I was willing to go with any of the three I typically use, but was hoping the 600mm was available as this is a great time for shorebirds. Its long reach is a real advantage. I got lucky as it was available, so I went all out and also picked up a 1.7x teleconverter and tripod with a Wimberly head.
I had planned on Fernhill Wetlands being my primary location, but my wife was tied up most of Saturday, so that gave me enough time to make a day trip to the coast. There had been reports of two Buff-breasted Sandpipers at Necanicum Estuary just north of Seaside as late as Friday, so I decided to try my luck. My success rate at bird chasing leaves something to be desired, but even if I didn't find them, there would be other great opportunities.
This would be my first visit to Necanicum Estuary, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Luckily, those that had already seen the birds left good directions for getting there. What I wasn't expecting, though, was a narrow stream separating me from a vast span of prime shorebird habitat at low tide. It was just wide enough to keep me from jumping over it (note to self, remember to get knee high boots).

After surveying the area and not seeing any Buff-breasted Sandpipers, I explored the trail along the stream until I found shallow area that I waded across. (Later I discovered that if I you just keep following the trail, the stream will end and you can walk out on to the estuary without getting wet) 

As I walked out onto the estuary, I wasn't sure where I should start.  I noticed someone standing a ways off who looked like they may be birding so I decided that would as good a place to start as any.
As I approached potential birder, he started subtly pointing off in the direction he was facing. I looked, but didn't see anything. It was early in the morning and the clouds hadn't burned off yet, so the light wasn't very good. Then, I noticed something moving not far from us. There they were, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers, not more than 20 feet away (probably less).

I took some pictures and eventually they flew off with some other nearby shorebirds. The birder turned out to be Greg Baker. I had read his posts on OBOL. We eventually re-found the birds (they sure seemed to like him. :-)), and eventually went our separate ways.
While I had gotten some ok pictures of the birds, the light left something to be desired, so I was concerned that the pictures would turn out soft.  I decided to stick around for awhile, spending some time with a flock of Caspian Terns, then returned to where we had first seen the sandpipers. By then the sun had burned through the clouds making for near ideal conditions.
As luck would have it, the birds had returned to the same area. They seemed to like this patch of sand covered with a carpet of green vegetation, this time accompanied by a small flock of Western Sandpipers and a few Least's.
They were very cooperative, until a family with small children came blasting through, spooking the Buff-breasted's. 


  1. The light IS perfect. What beautiful photos!

  2. Beautiful photographs, birds are very photogenic. I am greeting

  3. Wow, stunning photos! That is a beautiful Sandpiper and a nice, vibrant background as well!