Baird(s) on the Beach!

This gallery contains 4 photos. The caption of this post is my whimsical nod to both Shakespeare and shorebirds (being a fan of both). Those of you who live on the West Coast will be familiar with this summer festival. 🙂 Late summer in Metro Vancouver is peak migration time for many shorebirds, and the long-distance flyer known as the Baird’s Sandpiper is no exception. My meeting them, and in such close quarters at the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area over the past 2018 Labour Day long weekend, was an unexpected pleasure. A small contingent of these tiny shorebirds was completely at ease with the photographer who stepped into their midst on a sunny and slightly breeze Sunday.

Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper. © W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
juvenile Baird’s checking out the paparazzi (maybe the first time they’ve seen one up close).
f/11, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 400

With many birds, introducing yourself (even gradually), into their staging areas as they fatten themselves up for the often long flight southward, is likely to incite panicked calls and immediate flight, and make the transgressor look like a thousand-pound heel to any human witness(es) present. Not so with the very tame and approachable Baird’s. Hardly daring to believe my fortune, I quietly walked around them, not daring to make eye contact, and then slowly planted lowered myself to the ground.

Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper. © W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
two juveniles on the seaweed mound: there is no squabbling over food here.
f/11, 1/500, 500mm, ISO 400

From time to time, my subjects (there were a total of 30 feeding in the area, and most appeared to be juveniles) would study me briefly as I was returning the favor, but most continued to feed nonchalantly on aquatic bugs buried in the ground, and a few even parked themselves on top of the mounds of seaweed to relax and nap–less than 6 feet away from me! Confirming the identity of these shorebirds is usually done by examining their wingtips–which, unlike those of many other sandpiper species, extend far past their tails.

Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper. © W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
a juvenile Baird’s takes five. I can’t tell if I’ve been accepted or ignored. 🙂
f/11, 1/500, 500m, ISO 400

I was pinching myself through these encounters; it was as if they regarded me as one of them, and represented no threat to them. Periodically, a call would be exchanged between two parties, but they were quiet for the most part. I was amazed to learn that these diminutive flyers, who “tip” the scales at a couple of ounces, and measure barely over half a foot in length, make an amazing 15,000 km annual journey from South America to the high arctic to breed (and then the return trip for their winter vaca).

Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper. © W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
had this juvenile Baird’s gotten any closer, a macro lens would have been necessary!
f/11, 1/1000, 500mm, ISO 800

Like the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (whom the Baird’s resemble to a large degree, at least from a distance), Baird’s prefer drier areas over mudflats to forage; they are more “grasspipers” than “sandpipers.” 🙂 Unlike many shorebird species in decline, the population of Baird’s Sandpipers has remained remarkably steady. To learn more about the Baird’s Sandpiper, please visit its Cornell Lab of Ornithology profile.


9 thoughts on “Baird(s) on the Beach!

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