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Whimbrel - May 27, 2011

Whimbrel at Bald Knob, Allegheny County, PA
Searching for Whimbrels in Allegheny County in late May had become something of an obsession of mine over the past three or four years. I had even been resorting to listening for them on nocturnal migration, and staring at the open sky by daylight hoping for a brief glimpse of a migrating bird. This year was no exception. I had been spending the last week of May doing a very targeted search for Whimbrels: morning monitoring of the skies over Dashields Dam and Bald Knob, getting up at all hours to listen for them, looking up while walking between car and grocery store, etc.
So it was no accident that I was out at Bald Knob on the afternoon of 27 May, having already logged probably close to 24 hours of searching since 23rd. A brief but strong storm was passing through western Allegheny County following two solid days of south winds so I headed out to the pond, and as soon as the rain had subsided enough, I got out of the car and started scanning the grounds around the pond, specifically looking for a Whimbrel. And there it was.
Ironically, that jolt of electricity that comes from finding a rare bird is that much more jarring when you actually find exactly what you're looking for!

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 2x + 1.4x (1400mm), 1/640 sec. at f/11 (manual), ISO 1250, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 1250, tripod

Canon 1DMkIV, 500mm f/4L + 1.4x, 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 (manual), ISO 1250, tripod

The storm cleared quickly, but the bird remained on the ground for the next four hours anyway, until 8:15pm, when it predictably picked up, calling loudly, and headed off to the northwest. While it was on the ground it made no real effort to feed (not that the Blad Knob construction moonscape is fertile ground anyway); instead it simply rested and preened and waited for the sun to disappear in the west before resuming its migration to the Arctic.

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

Unless explicitly indicated otherwise in the photo caption, all photos on this website were taken by and are 2003-2013 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 obtaining a print, contact me at pomarine -AT- earthlink -DOT- net.