Male Long-billed Curlew foraging on Antelope Island – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Four days ago I was able to take my first photographs of Long-billed Curlews this year on Antelope Island State Park and although I was disappointed in the quality of most of the images I took I enjoyed seeing these large sandpipers again. It was delightful to hear the curlews calling from the ground and while they were in flight and to see several pairs of these large sandpipers as they foraged and fed. I always miss the curlews when they are gone for the winter and when they come back I get excited about observing and photographing them on their breeding grounds.
Long-billed Curlews are North America’s largest shorebird, they can weigh up to 1.3 pounds and be 23 inches in length with a wingspan of 35 inches, our smallest sandpiper in North America is the Least Sandpiper that weighs about 0.7 ounces, is 6 inches in length and only has a wingspan of 13 inches. Long-billed Curlews dwarf the Least Sandpipers when they stand side by side.
It is difficult to see at web-sized resolution but this male curlew has prey in its bill that he had snatched from the ground and the curlew swallowed the prey so quickly that I didn’t get a photo of it with the high burst rate of my D500, he opened his bill and swiftly tossed the prey down his throat.
I’ve been grumbling about our gray clouds and dreary weather of the past few days and it looks like I still have today and tomorrow to get through before there is a possibility of clearer skies so I am anxious to get back out into the field again to photograph the Long-billed Curlews before the no-see-ums (biting gnats) on the island emerge. The no-see-ums are tiny, blood-sucking monsters that make people and other creatures completely miserable for a period of time on the island. Last year while they were out I tried to avoid being on the island which meant fewer images of the curlews and other birds that are migrating in now. I despise those little suckers but mostly I grimace through the pain they cause and continue to photograph the birds and wildlife on the island. Spring on Antelope Island is simply too spectacular to miss.
Life is good.