Short-billed Dowitcher on the wrack line

Short-billed Dowitcher on seaweedShort-billed Dowitcher on wrack line – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

In the past I have been asked what a wrack line is by friends when I have mentioned it while talking about my shorebird photography. A wrack line is an area on the shore just above mean high tide where wave action can deposit driftwood, seaweed, man made items, eelgrass, the remains of marine creatures and small invertebrates and can be a prime feeding ground for birds and animals that are hunting for food.

I photographed this Short-billed Dowitcher and the out of focus Sanderling the day after a storm had pushed mounds of Sargassum seaweed onto the wrack line and the birds were busy looking for food within it. This Dowitcher gave me a nice wing stretch before it moved further down the beach.

A word of warning; if the wrack line does have the remains of marine creatures in it you may have to hold your breath when near it because it can smell absolutely horrible.



  1. Merrill Ann Gonzales December 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I grew up on an island. We always knew when it was low tide. Now, living so far from water and missing it dreadfully, that smell would be most healing to me. There’s something about nature that helps these things just be natural.

    This is a stunning photo – once again – I’m so delighted with your bird photography.

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Merrill, when I lived in Colorado I missed having a large body of water nearby, I love beaches, waves and water. So, moving to where I could have mountains, snow, deserts, plains AND the Great Salt Lake was awesome for me. Thank you so much for your comment.

  2. Prairie Birder December 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Terrific photo, Mia! I really like the Sanderling out of focus, it makes your eye more drawn to the dowitcher.

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks Charlotte, I liked the out of focus Sanderling in the image for the very reason you mentioned.

  3. Sherry in MT December 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

    But that line smells bad cuz of all the good eaten for the shore birds. I like the stretch you caught and think it is really cool composition because of the sanderling in the back. The white of the sanderling really makes the dowitcher stand out!

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      You are right Sherry, it smells bad but the birds get food from it, thanks for your comment.

  4. Rohrerbot December 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I think I’ve been in an area like this. I almost lost my lunch the first time in it:) BUT I did get used to it and found some incredible birds:)

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      Yes, the smell can be very revolting at times Chris!

  5. Wally December 20, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Ahh, but some of us (okay, maybe just me) love the aroma of composting sea life in the morning! Then again, I also think a warm summer night isn’t complete without the scent of skunk lingering in the air. Native Florida blood? My wife says I’m just strange. There is other evidence to support her theory.

    Great image of the Dowitcher!

    Hey, hope your Holiday is wonderful. Thank you for your blog and inspiring photos!

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Wally, I’d take the smell of the wrack line any day over the smell caused by a Red Tide. I remember my eyes burning so bad because of Red Tide I had to leave beaches because I could not see to photograph!

      I can’t honestly say I like the smell of skunk though!

      Thanks for your comment and the giggle it gave me, Happy Holidays.

  6. Bob Bushell December 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for the Wrack, I’ve learnt quite a lot. The Short-billed Dowitcher is a pressure, great photo.

  7. Laurence Butler December 20, 2012 at 6:43 am

    I hope it didn’t smell too bad this time Mia, but even if so that’s a fabulous shot!
    Thanks for takin’ one for the team then 🙂

    • Mia McPherson December 23, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      Hiya Laurence, it actually didn’t smell too bad that morning which I was grateful for! Thanks for your comment.

  8. Tammy Karr December 20, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Beautiful shot of the Short-billed Dowitcher! I do see and smell wrack lines often, but I wasn’t familiar with that term. Thanks for the info!

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