Long-billed Curlew Foraging on Antelope Island

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Male Long-billed Curlew foraging on Antelope IslandMale 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.

Mia

7 Comments

  1. Linda Murdock April 11, 2018 at 6:20 am

    We saw one male here on the Texas coast last week, foraging in a well-kept green lawn. Most have headed your way by now but sometimes a young male will stay for the summer.

  2. Elephants Child April 7, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Glorious plumage. And the perfect camouflague I suspect.

  3. Patty Chadwick April 7, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    This is a wonderful picture of a bird I once found odd, but now find very beautifil….love the subtle colrs and patterns.

  4. Jane Chesebrough April 7, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Yes, those gnats are nasty. You are right , life IS good. I am going out today to see what may have arrived , despite the cold. (-15 C).

  5. April Olson April 7, 2018 at 10:12 am

    I hate to tell you, but last Sunday I got a couple of dozen gnat bites on the Island while hiking. Still itching raw looking bites this weekend. They got my hairline, ankles and neckline on my shirt.

    • Mia McPherson April 7, 2018 at 10:15 am

      I hate hearing that April. When they bite me not only are the bites painful but they ping on my Lupus and my skin goes crazy. 🙁

  6. Bob mcpherson April 7, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Nice

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