Stilt Sandpiper- Calidris himantopus

by Bryce W. Robinson

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I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had here with the birds of the tundra. I constantly find myself on my elbows with a tolerant bird, my shutter clicking away, as I try to remain calm and steady. It’s tricky working with the birds here. They aren’t quite accustomed to humans, but this can be to a photographers advantage. In fact, large creatures aren’t natural threats to these birds. Ultimately, I believe, that to the birds I resemble a creature such as the caribou. I’d like to think I am that large and powerful.

The result is a cautious, but calm subject for photography. So long as you remain calm, slow moving, and non threatening, the birds are relatively cooperative. This cooperation has given me the chance to work on composition and other skills relating to my photography. With the 60D I’ve been using, and a broken 300mm lens, (I won’t go into details why I haven’t been using my 7D, and why I’m limping with a broken lens) I feel I’ve gathered a great group of photos of some of the tundra breeders.

I’ve had a few opportunities with the Stilt Sandpiper, but today was definitely the most fruitful. As the tundra warms, the flowers have bloomed in bounty. The grass is also greening and growing, and coupled with the diverse and multicolored lichen, the tundra has become quite the setting for dramatic photography, and exceptional birding.

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This stilt likely had a few fledglings nearby, as it was showing all of the signs of a parent in distress. Later I reviewed the photos from the day, and noticed that every time the bird opened its mouth, something seemed to be sticking out. It seemed like the birds tongue, and I’m fairly confident that is the explanation. You can see it plainly in the photo above. In other photos from other angles, it shows that the tongue is sideways. I’d love to discover what the problem is with this bird. I do hope that it is nothing serious, as this bird has a job to do raising the next generation.

There are loads of youngsters crawling across the tundra, and I’m loving every chance to experience the new life. I could string a long list of cliches to explain my feelings every time I see the young chicks, but I’ll just let the photos in the future do the talking for me. Stay tuned…