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Hudsonian Godwits at South Beach, 15 July 2010

While on a recent vacation to New England that featured more rain than birds, I managed to find a rain-free afternoon to do some photography at the now-famous South Beach at Chatham, MA. My target, besides witnessing first-hand the outstanding shorebird spectacle the beach is famous for, was to study and photograph Hudsonian Godwits. South Beach has become perhaps the premiere site in the United States to see "hudwits" away from their breeding grounds, and on this day they did not disappoint. There were at least 30 present, and it seemed every one of them was in a different state of molt.
Most interesting of all was one banded bird wearing a red flag on the left leg, and a green band and a metal band on the right. This bird is pictured in the first two photos below.
You can read about the Hudsonian Godwit tracking project here. My encounter with this bird was fairly brief, and I was not able to read the flag completely. I could see that the first letter was A and the second was probably X, but I could not be sure before the bird took off and flew down the beach. I do not think the bird was reported before 15 July when I made these two photos, but in the days following, other observers refound the bird and confirmed that the flag reads "AXA".
The red flag indicates that the bird was banded on its wintering grounds at Chiloe Island, Chile. Once the flag number was fully confirmed, it was announced that this specific bird was banded 21 January 2010 near the town of Dalcahue on Chiloe Island, and was the first Chilean-banded godwit to be recovered in the New England area. The bird was still present until at least 19 July at South Beach and is likely still present as of this writing (23 July).

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Though the birds did not disappoint, the weather definitley did. I did escape the rain, but my day at South Beach was still heavily overcast, which resulted in some really frustrating light -- lots of flat grays and terrible backgrounds. Still, I suppose that's an excuse to go back sometime soon...

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x, 1/640 sec. at f/8 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/800 sec. at f/6.3 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/800 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 800, tripod

Finally, even though I've devoted this page to Hudsonian Godwits, I could not resist throwing in my favorite Short-billed Dowitcher picture of the day -- and one where I actually managed to find some color to show in the background. It was one of about 1800 dowitchers present at the beach that day, an amazing total by my personal standards and experience, but actually quite pedestrian for South Beach in mid-July.

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/800 sec. at f/7.1 (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.