Go With the Tide

One thing you learn as a generalist, rather than a specialist is that’s there’s always something new to learn. I now know enough to consult the tide charts before planning a birding trip to the coast. Originally I was told that you should be there two hours before high tide so that the shorebirds will gradually be pushed toward the shore and towards you and your camera.

I did exactly that when I headed out to Bottle Beach yesterday. When I got there, there was virtually no shore, and virtually no birds. What there was was a single photographer and a small flock of Lesser Sandpipers.

Flock Of Lesser Sandpipers

He told me he’d been there three and half hours before high tide and it was nearly perfect. So, the new rule of thumb is that if it’s a really high tide, like yesterdays’ 9, you need to be there at least three hours before high tide. Of course, if it’s a normal high tide you’ll have to wait a couple of hours for any birds. Hope I can remember that.

As long as I was there, I decided to walk a couple miles down the beach, probably because I couldn’t believe all of the birds would have left that quickly. I was rewarded with total of four shorebirds, three Black-Bellied Plowers, like this one

Another Unidentified Shorebird

and a single Whimbrel.


Well, I certainly didn’t waste a day driving to settle for three birds. So I drove down the beach to another spot that was good the last time I was at the beach. Nothing, but the photographer I’d talked to at Bottle Beach told me that there were a lot birds at Tokeland.

He wasn’t lying. The high tide that had driven all the birds from Bottle Beach had forced the resident flock of Marbled Godwits to huddle together near the shore.

They were so close that I had to take my 1.4 lens extender off my birding lens. The hardest thing was isolating a subject without cutting off wings, legs and beaks.

Marbled Godwit Flock

These four were sitting on top of a pier, and I was attracted by the one on the right.

Four Godwits on Pier

I found it nearly impossible to get a shot of just one flying, but this one had just landed.


A very high tide might be a photographic disaster at one beach but a real blessing at another. Sounds familiar, somehow.

3 thoughts on “Go With the Tide”

  1. Loren – I never tire of visiting your site – your photographs are superb and I do envy you being near enough to the ocean to go regularly. Particularly love that lovely pattern of sandpipers.

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