I first started my wildlife photography because I was awed by the beauty and magnificence of Black Bears and Grizzly Bears. So my first years really focused on them and other large mammals. I would take a photo of a bird if it caught my attention and if I wasn't in a hurry to get the location where I was hoping to find a bear or two. I remember heading down the Washington and Oregon Coast once, toward Lewis River where the much rarer Roosevelt Elk lived. The Oregon Coast is really in and of itself awesome. So, I couldn't help stopping and enjoying the view. As I did so, I so this rather unusual black bird with a long red bill standing on a rock on the ocean shore. So, I took a photo, and continued on my trip. Here is the photo:
photo taken along the Oregon Coast
I promise that will be the worst photo I ever show you. But, here is a quote from the National Audubon Field Guide: The Black Oystercatcher "... can be hard to see against a background of wet, seaweed-encrusted rocks and usually forages alone ..." Now a quote from Wikipedia: "Although the species is not considered threatened, its global population size is estimated between 8,900–11,000 individuals. The Black Oystercatcher is a species of high conservation concern throughout its range (U.S., Canadian, Alaskan, and Northern & Southern Pacific Shorebird Conservation Plans), a keystone indicator species along the north Pacific shoreline, and a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service focal species for priority conservation action." Had I known any of this at the time I might have made more of an effort to get a better photo. Hindsight, you know. Anyway, there is a lesson. Learn as much as you can about what you might see wherever it is you are going. And, as a wildlife photographer, take pictures of anything you see that you don't have a photo of already. And, pretend that it is the primary goal of the day.
Now, so as not to leave you with a terrible photo, here is a Semi-palmated Plover:
photo taken at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge, Washington
A couple years after the Black Oystercatcher experience I headed out to the Olympic National Park and the Washington Coast again. This time a little more researched. Although no Black Oystercatchers, I found a few Semi-palmated Plovers at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. This is an area where over one million shorebirds rest and feed during their migration between South America and the Arctic. This plover resembles the Killdeer but is much smaller and has only one band on the neck. The term "semipalmated" refers to its partly webbed feet. Like the Killdeer it makes its nest on the ground; and, when approached by a predator acts as if it has a "broken-wing" to lure intruders away from the nest. Tomorrow, the Killdeer.