Piping Plovers – Down & Dirty

When photographing shorebirds I like to get down to their level which usually means I am getting dirty. I will lay on the sand, mud, grass or get as low as I can in the water to get a low angle perspective. It can bring the viewer into the bird’s world but as a bird photographer I enjoy sharing that space with them too because it gives me a sense of intimacy with my subject.

These images were taken at Fort De Soto County Park in Pinellas County, Florida.

Feeding Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)Feeding Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Piping Plovers are small, pale shorebirds, they are about 7 1/4 inches in length with a wingspan of 19 inches. They can live up to 11 years. Their status is vulnerable throughout much of their range. There are two subspecies, one that is found along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines and the other is an inland species.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) on the shore of the GulfPiping Plover (Charadrius melodus) on the shore of the Gulf – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Piping Plovers nest in shallow scrapes in sand, gravel, salt flats or dunes which leaves their nests vulnerable to predators and in danger of being accidentally stepped on. The chicks are precocial and begin to run around not long after being born. They look like little tan cotton balls on stick legs. The feed on small mollusks, insects and marine worms in typical plover fashion, run, pause and pluck.

When I photographed this Piping Plover I was flat on my belly where the shallow waves of water pushed onto the sand. I have found that if I lay still enough the birds will approach me while I am “down & dirty”.



  1. Julie Brown March 3, 2012 at 5:53 am

    That low angle makes a huge difference in perspective. Nice background and reflection. I hope to see these little cuties when I am in Florida!

    • Mia McPherson March 3, 2012 at 6:08 am

      Julie, I hope you get to see Piping Plovers while you are in Florida too!

  2. Julie G. March 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

    The angle really makes a difference, Mia! These are excellent images of this diminutive bird. I love how they skitter across the shoreline.

    • Mia McPherson March 2, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      Julie, I love how they skitter too, they are such fun to photograph getting down to their level.

  3. Prairie Birder March 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Piping Plovers are very neat birds and you took some excellent photos of them.

    • Mia McPherson March 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      PrairieBirder, thank you very much for your comments on these images. Piping Plovers are really neat.

  4. Kathiesbirds March 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Mia, getting down and dirty has certainly paid off with excellent shots!

    • Mia McPherson March 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks for your wonderful comment Katie!

  5. Linda Rockwell March 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    You have really demonstrated how much difference it makes to get down on the birds’ level. I clearly need to work on that technique. I guess I need to get my waders out of storage. Lovely photos!

    • Mia McPherson March 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Linda, I never wore waders but I did wear clothes that dry very fast and ones that sand shook out of easily! Thanks for commenting.

  6. Laurence Butler March 1, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I love your Plover shots Mia. They’re such pretty little things and they seem to exude gentleness.

    • Mia McPherson March 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

      “Gentle” is a word I think of when seeing Piping Plovers Laurence. They move with such grace and are so beautiful. Thank you for commenting.

  7. Beverly Everson March 1, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Wonderful!!! I love the reflections and the POV is perfect!

  8. Scott March 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

    What a great perspective! Gorgeous shots, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson March 1, 2012 at 9:26 am

      Thank you Scott, your comments are much appreciated.

  9. Robert Mortensen March 1, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I had that exact experience with the Green Heron in Arizona. When it comes to bird photography, that down on the level of birds on the ground perspective is the most captivating and interesting to look at. Though I’ve not been privileged yet to be under your direct tutelage in the field, I have learned some much from great photographers like you by reading your awesome blogs.

    • Mia McPherson March 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Thanks for commenting Robert. I loved your great low angle Green Heron shots from AZ.

      We have to shoot together sometime!

  10. Dan Huber March 1, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I love the images Mia, taken from the low perspective really makes a difference.

    • Mia McPherson March 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

      Dan, thanks for your wonderful comment on these images.

Comments are closed.