Avocets at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

As I’ve noted several times before, I don’t consider myself a “birder” because I go to places I think I will love, not to see particular birds. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is so full of life that I have enjoyed every visit. Still, when I read a week before I left that there were avocets there, I was looking forward to seeing them. I first saw a picture of an Avocet on a refuge brochure nearly two years ago, and I’ve been hoping to get a shot of one ever since.

I did get several shots of avocets on my earlier trip to California this Spring, but none were in full breeding colors. That certainly wasn’t the case at Malheur when I was there. Every Avocet I saw was in full breeding colors. After several days of editing, I managed to narrow my favorite shots down to 55 shots I liked for various reasons.

I took this shot at around 6:30 in the morning when the light from the rising sun seemed to complement the Avocet.


I probably would have been perfectly happy if this had been the only shot of an Avocet I got on the trip.

But as so often seems to be the case, once you’ve gotten a good picture even better shots seem to follow. After driving the road through the heart of the refuge, I drove out to Ruh-Red Road on the north end of the refuge where I encountered large flocks of Avocets.

After setting up my tripod and 500mm lens, I sat waiting to see what birds would show up. So many birds showed up that I nearly got whiplash trying to shoot everything I saw, but the Avocets seemed the most indifferent to my presence.


Whereas other birds would tend to drift away when I pointed a lens at them, as often as not the Avocets would continue walking toward me.


The result was some of my favorite shots of the trip.


It almost makes me wonder if I’ll ever get better shots than the ones I took that week. Still, it always seems that more you observe a species the better the shots you get. And as a fellow photographer commented to me on this trip, “The best shot is the one that is still in the camera” and the avocet is certainly a beautiful bird that will continue to draw my attention no matter how many pictures I’ve taken.

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