Although it’s not unusual for a particular species like the Godwits or a flock of Red Knots to stand out when I go birding at the coast during migration, it’s the experience itself that brings me back, not the photographs of a particular bird I might get. Although it was a thrill getting a full-frame shot of a Western Sandpiper the first time,
after you’ve gotten some great closeups it seems impossible to get a better shot, though different sunlight conditions do offer different opportunities.
Truthfully, though, I seldom take my 500 mm lens and tripod to the beach any more. Instead, I hand carry my 400mm lens so I can enjoy the total experience more.
I love the feeling of being immersed in the migration, love seeing a Black-Bellied Plover in full-breeding colors scurrying across the surf,
a small flock of Dowitcher’s landing feet in front of me.
After an hour of trying to photograph a hectic feeding frenzy, there’s even something strangely appealing about seeing a mixed flock of Dowitchers and Western Sandpipers, briefly sleeping off a mid-morning snack a few feet from me,
discovering as you leave that even the way out is blocked by peeps feeding as far as the eye can see. I find myself belonging in ways I seldom do elsewhere.