Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

March 21, 2009

Two views of Wilson’s Phalaropes

Filed under: behavior, Birds, comparisons, composition, Gilbert Water Ranch, style, technique — richditch @ 3:50 pm
Wilson's Phalarope with reflection

Wilson's Phalarope with reflection

Phalaropes are among my favorite species for many reasons. The females are more colorful than the males and act like males in many ways, leaving the breeding grounds early and allowing their mates to care for any offspring. The three species (Wilson’s, Red,  and Red-necked Phalarope) have lobed toes to help them swim like a coot of duck, and can often be found at sea far from land. They have a unique way of feeding: spinning in tight circles on the water to kick up food that they then jab at with their pointed beaks.

Wilson’s Phalarope (shown here) is the easiest to see as it occurs in good numbers in the western US in migration, and is a scarce but regular migrant in the eastern US at places like Cape May, NJ. Seen on the water they are easy to pick out from their spinning behavior; out of the water their pot-bellied shape (especially Wilson’s) makes them stand out. In basic (non breeding) plumage they look very white which also makes them stand out in a group of other shorebirds.

The top photo shows a well-marked Wilson’s Phalarope at the Gilbert Water Ranch feeding like a typical shorebird in very shallow water. I was able to get a good reflection that helped fill the space of my composition. The natural light has created a strong catchlight in the eye.

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 with TC20E 2x, ISO 200, 1/750th at f/8, tripod, 04/21/07.

Wilson's Phalarope swimming

Wilson's Phalarope swimming

This swimming bird was taken 3 days and about 10 miles away from the top image, and was shot from my moving blind (aka my Toyota) from the dike surrounding a shallow impoundment. Normally I would avoid water that looked like this, but I find the color of the water (from the reddish soil in the area) compliments the tones in the bird’s plumage.

D200, 300/2.8 plus 2xx, ISO 320, 1/50th at f/8, car window, 04/24/07.

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