2021—Ten Thousand Four Hundred Two

The last hour of our last day photographing shorebirds in Massachussetts was sensational. And it happened only because of a chance encounter two days earlier. Our week here was disappointing mostly because of the lack of shorebirds to photograph. Whether it was a fluke or an ominous indicator of what’s to come, the end result was that we had very few birds to photograph. And Beach Panning, one of my favorite ways to photograph birds, didn’t happen until briefly our third day here because we couldn’t access beaches where the few birds that were listed as eBird sightings was impossible. Late the afternoon of our second day, while we were photographing some Least Sandpipers by Sandwich Boardwalk, a person approached because we were a rather curious group, six people, all with telephoto lenses, lined up on a concrete wall, lenses focused on the water’s edge. He told us that there were plenty of shorebirds at Red River Beach, an hour’s drive from Plymouth. Thursday afternoon, as each subsequent potential site failed to produce birds, Moose decided to try the guy’s suggestion so we drove to Red River Beach. It was almost 5PM and high winds prevented us from using our super telephoto lenses. Instead we opted to handhold our 400mm lenses and lay in the sand supporting our cameras with our elbows. And the shorebirds came right up to us, sometimes so close we couldn’t focus on them. Groups of Ruddy Turnstones, flocks of Sanderlings, a couple of Piping Plovers, a lone Willet, some Herring Gulls, and some Ring-necked Gulls all foraged among the seaweed and snail shells just a few feet from us. As the tide washed in, the birds got closer to us. We had to inch over a few times when the waves broke and washed within inches of my prone body. But we were determined despite sand in our mouths forced in by the wind and the possibility of getting drenched by a rogue wave. It was our last chance because we were flying home the next day. After an hour, the winds were still fierce but we had given it our best. This is a Sanderling, one of my favorite shore birds, as it poked its beak into the sand to extract a tiny crustacean. I had a personal best of sorts. I shot ten thousand four hundred two images in that hour. I have a tendency to shoot more images than most of my fellow photographers except one, my friend Jerry. This day, I dethroned Jerry with the highest image count, all made possible by the fabulous Nikon Z9 and its incredible auto focus system and 20 frames per second firing rate. It’s always great to end an adventure on a high note!

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