Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

February 21, 2010

Dunlin, an uncommon local shorebird

Filed under: Birds, digital benefits, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch, rarities — richditch @ 3:31 pm


Dunlin (Calidris alpina) is a smallish sandpiper with a distinctive breeding plumage, and a typical nondescript basic plumage as seen in this image from the Gilbert Water Ranch. I’ve seen hundreds (at least) in my days birding on the New Jersey shore, but here in central Arizona where I now live it is an uncommon to rare transient and winter visitor. My summary spreadsheet reveals I’ve seen Dunlin in only eight of my 16 years here.  This is the first one I’ve seen at the Water Ranch where I spend a lot of time.

As usual, it was discovered by my friend Brendon who knew it was “something different” by the way it fed and made the correct ID after getting some photos. I was happy that he was able to find the bird in the same place the following day, and I too was able to get some record shots of it.

Unlike my usual posts here, this is a significant crop: only 9% of the total frame from my D200. The only processing applied to the image was selective noise reduction to everything in the frame but the Dunlin, and the normal Smart Sharpen.

I selected this image from the many I shot because it shows the classic “field guide” profile for easiest identification.

Knowing the local birds is an important advantage for any aspiring bird photographer. Spend as much time as possible learning the birds in a good field guide (like Sibley or National Geographic), and then test that knowledge every time you get out in the field to take photos.

Also, get any available guide to the local birds and locations. For central Arizona the obvious choice is Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County, by Janet Witzeman, Salome Demaree, and Eleanor Radke.

Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County

Birds of Phoenix and Maricopa County

Published by the Maricopa Audubon Society in 1997 it can still be found in select local bookstores and at Audubon meetings.

shorebird barchart from Maricopa County Guide

shorebird barchart from Maricopa County Guide

In the tradition of the best location guides, the Maricopa County book has bar charts showing seasonal abundance or all the species. This is valuable information to any birder or serious bird photographer in central AZ.

Similar books are available for many other places in the U.S., and they should be in every bird photographer’s toolkit.

I’ve discussed other books useful to Arizona birders on my web site.


1 Comment »

  1. Big congrats on getting this image of your uncommon visitor, the Dunlin Rich! It looks really good for only 9% of the original frame.

    Comment by Mia — February 21, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

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