This year has been a spectacular one for me and my photographic adventures. I criss-crossed the continent and even visited Australia. I acquired a couple of Nikon Z9 cameras and Nikkor Z400mm and Z800mm lenses and focused them on lots of birds, a few I’d never seen before, including some endangered species. I revisited familiar places (including four visits to Yellowstone National Park and a couple visits to Alaska) to photograph four-legged critters, some familiar and some new. And, I visited quite a few new places, including Michigan where I photographed icicle draped lighthouses on Lake Michigan. When I wasn’t traveling with my camera, I was photographing hummingbirds and other feathered visitors in my backyard. I tried, but it is not possible for me, to select a single photograph that represents the year just finishing, or even a group of them. Instead, I got to thinking about one memorable event and how it related to the start of my passion for photographing birds, and the specific bird that sparked my interest years before I acquired my first Nikon.
The Sanderling, pictured above, still in breeding plumage, shakes after preening on Red River Beach in Massachusetts in August. This small shore bird sparked my initial interest in photographing birds when I saw one for the first time on the beach in Port Aransas, Texas in 2008. There, I took my first unsuccessful photographs of Sanderlings using my point and shoot camera. Fast forward fifteen years to the last hour of our last day in Plymouth, Massachusetts in August where we had gone to photograph shore birds and were disappointed to find beaches inaccessible and very few birds on those beaches we did find open to us. We took a chance on Red River Beach, a place an hour from Plymouth that wasn’t listed on any bird sites, but we’d heard about in a chance encounter. High winds prevented us from using our 800mm lenses but we all lay flat on the sand with 400mm lenses and saw and photographed more birds in that hour than we’d seen the entire week. Oh, the memorable event was not that we finally saw and photographed birds, although that was a wonderful end to the trip. The memorable event was that in that one hour, I took 10,402 photographs of those shore birds. Most were of Sanderlings, I’m happy to say.