Whimbrels – Friday Photos

Whimbrel on beachWhimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) on the sand – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Even in February Florida can be fairly warm, it was on the day I photographed these Whimbrels, in fact I was very glad I brought an extra bottle of frozen water. I had decided earlier on the drive to Honeymoon Island that I would walk north on the beach until I reached the northern most tip of Honeymoon Island State Park first instead of walking the Osprey Trail that goes through the woods. I had heard there was a flock of 20+ Whimbrels that were being seen near the north tip and I hoped to see and photograph them.

I think it is about a 3 mile walk though going through that soft sand with your feet sinking in, it does feel a bit father than that.

Whimbrel with a tiny crabWhimbrel with a tiny crab- Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

As I walked towards the north tip of the beach I watched Bottle-nosed Dolphins swimming in the low waves that were only perhaps only 30 feet from the shore, there is just something I find very soothing about seeing the dolphins break the surface of the water, they are so graceful.  Birds in the sky included Ospreys, Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls and some of the tern species found along the coast of Florida in the winter. There were Ruddy Turnstones, Wilson’s Plovers, Sanderlings and a few Least Sandpipers scurrying long the shoreline looking for prey. I was also able to see a few Yellow-crowned Night Herons prowling along the sandy beach, looking for Ghost Crabs I am certain.

Even though I knew there was a possibility that the Whimbrels had moved on or wouldn’t be seen I was determined to enjoy the long walk and absorb all that I was viewing every moment of the hike up the beach. Other people were wandering along the beach too but they also seemed absorbed in the beautiful views, the sound of the water gently lapping the shoreline and the nice sea breeze.

Whimbrel in flight over the Gulf of MexicoWhimbrel in flight over the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Just before I reached the north tip of the beach, I saw them. The Whimbrels were still there. It didn’t take long for me to check my ISO, my aperture and other techs as I dropped onto my knees before laying flat on my belly to photograph the flock of 20 or so Whimbrels as they searched for prey in a long, floating mat of seaweed that was just at the edge of the shore. A few of the Whimbrels were up higher on the wrack line poking into the vegetation there. I crawled slowly through the sand to get closer to the birds, stopping each time they showed any alarm.

I was delighted to have them all to myself.

Whimbrel face onWhimbrel face on – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm at 330mm, natural light

I stayed with the Whimbrels for about an hour, taking hundreds of images  of the birds. I was really in my element and felt privileged to be in the birds element too. About that time a group of people walked through the flock and soon as that happened the birds scattered and took flight. By then the sun was high and the light was getting contrasty so I headed back towards the parking lot to my Jeep with the heating of the sun beating down on me. I’m almost certain that I had a goofy but highly satisfied grin on my face.

Those Whimbrels and the other birds, the views, the white sand plus the inviting water that I cooled my feet and legs with all combined to create great moments that I will never forget.

Yes, I am addicted to bird photography but all the other bits of nature that go with it are quite awesome too.

Mia

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