As I mentioned earlier this week, I had a very successful trip photographing shorebirds at Caladesi Island last weekend. While it looked beautiful out with lots of sun and hardly any clouds, what you can’t see in the photos is how very windy it was. I don’t know how fast the wind was blowing, but it was strong and steady enough to really kick up some waves and make the Gulf look like the high seas! The good news was that I was fortunate enough to have both the sun and the wind to my back as I walked to the far northern end of the island.
Not wanting to ruffle their feathers, most every bird I encountered was facing me as I walked, and the lighting was great. Since most of the birds were most comfortable walking into the wind while they fed along the shore, I was able to quietly sit in one spot for quite a while and have several birds walk right by me, unconcerned with my presence. This was especially helpful in trying to photograph skittish Sanderlings, like the one featured here. Although my camera (and everything else) was covered in salt spray by the end of the day, the strong wind seemed to help me get some great shots, so I was thrilled with how the day turned out.
Easily recognizable as they run out with each retreating wave to feed, Sanderlings often are seen in large groups and are the most common shorebird in Florida. Sanderlings are usually seen in their gray winter plumage from August through April as shown in this photo taken on an October day at Sand Key Park in Clearwater, FL. The most wide-spread wintering shore bird in the world, Sanderlings breed in the summer months in the Arctic tundra. It is not uncommon for non-breeding birds to stay in their warmer winter locales in the summer months.