Birding Trips and other Cool Pictures - A Photo Gallery by Geoff Malosh
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Unusual Shorebirds at Independence Marsh - Sept. 2010

American Golden-Plover, Stilt Sandpiper, and Bairds Sandpiper at Independence Marsh, Beaver County
 
The moderate drought conditions in western Pennsylvania during the summer of 2010 have led to a good year for shorebirds. This has been especially true at Independence Marsh in Beaver County, which has enjoyed one of its best seasons ever. Beginning with the marsh's second White-rumped Sandpiper in late August, a steady stream of locally rare shorebirds have continued to appear in September.
 
First was this American Golden-Plover, the second at the marsh in as many years, which stayed from 9/2 (here) to at least 9/6.

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Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x, 1/1000 sec. at f/8 (manual), ISO 1000, tripod

I didn't get a chance to make any pictures of this bird until the sun was almost set, so after the sun was behind the trees (but still lighting the hillsides around the marsh), I stuck around to see what could be made of the distinctive lighting conditions that make Independence a fun place for photography. This was the most interesting shot. As you can see, the high-ISO capabilities of the Mark-IV came in handy here:

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Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x, 1/500 sec. at f/8 (manual), ISO 1250, tripod

September 16 brought a duo of rare shorebirds: a Stilt Sandpiper (second marsh record), and 2 Baird's Sandpipers (also a second marsh record, with the first coming just a week before on 9/8). I found all three birds on 9/16, but did not have a chance to photograph them until 9/18:

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Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x, 1/1600 sec. at f/8 (manual), ISO 800, handheld in thick mud

Note the caption of the photo above: "handheld in thick mud". This is not an exaggeration. I had to lay out completely in a witches brew of mud, slime, bugs, and fish guts to get the picture above. Some people have seen me at the marsh wearing a black rain suit and rubber boots even on sunny, 85-degree afternoons; this is why. On a hot day I might shed 3 or 4 pounds of sweat alone laying in that filth. But it's worth it...

sandpiper_stilt_indmarshpa_20100918_1d4_0_5425w.jpg
Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x, 1/1600 sec. at f/8 (manual), ISO 800, handheld

After I was done with the Stilt, I went to work on the Baird's for about an hour. Based on where they were, I could not lay down for that perfect gound-level shot, so I worked low from a tripod. The light and the conditions were absolutely ideal, so I decided to try something I don't often do: I attached both a 2x and a 1.4x teleconverter to my 500mm, to make a 1400mm f/11 equivalent. This forces the use of manual focus and exacting tripod technique, but when the subjects are so darn cooperative, it can be done.

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Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x + 1.4x (1400mm), 1/640 sec. at f/11 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

sandpiper_bairds_indmarshpa_20100918_1d4_0_5758w.jpg
Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x + 1.4x (1400mm), 1/640 sec. at f/11 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Having a very close and confiding look at these two Baird's, I noticed that one of them had an apparent injury (or at least feather damage) affecting a portion of its mantle and scapular feathers. Coincidentally, a Baird's Sandpiper appeared at nearby Bald Knob in Allegheny County two weeks before this bird appeared at Independence, which also showed an injury or damage to it mantle and scapulars. The Bald Knob bird's injury looked much more severe, but maybe only because the bird had not lost the affected feathers yet. Anyway, the coincidence led me to believe that the bird pictured below may well have been the same as the one that was at Bald Knob earlier. 

sandpiper_bairds_indmarshpa_20100918_1d4_0_5780w.jpg
Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x + 1.4x (1400mm), 1/640 sec. at f/11 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

After I had success using stacked teleconverters with the Baird's, I couldn't resist going back for more of the Stilt...

sandpiper_stilt_indmarshpa_20100918_1d4_0_5805w.jpg
Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x + 1.4x (1400mm), 1/640 sec. at f/11 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Unless explicitly indicated otherwise in the photo caption, all photos on this website were taken by and are 2003-2012 by Geoff Malosh. Unauthorized usage of these photographs for any purpose is strictly forbidden. If you are interested in using any photo for publication or if you are interested in purchasing a print, contact me at pomarine -AT- earthlink -DOT- net.