WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – HOLEY LAND WMA, FL
This photograph is of Sandpipers at Holey Land Wildlife Management Area located on the border of Broward and Palm Beach County on Okeechobee Road (US-27). This wildlife management area is mostly marsh and mudflats thus providing a habitat for birds. The camera gear used to photograph these Sandpipers was a Nikon D90 attached to a Tamron 28-300mm lens. These birds were out of the normal focal range of this lens, but I had to take the shot!
The sandpipers are a large family, Scolopacidae, of waders or shorebirds. They include many species called sandpipers, as well as those called by names such as curlew and snipe. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of bills enable different species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.
Sandpipers have long bodies and legs, and narrow wings. Most species have a narrow bill, but otherwise the form and length are quite variable. They are small to medium sized birds, measuring 12–66 cm (4.7–26 in) cm in length. The bills are sensitive, allowing the birds to feel the mud and sand as they probe for food. They generally have dull plumage, with cryptic brown, grey, or streaked patterns, although some display brighter colors during the breeding season.
Most species nest in open areas, and defend their territories with aerial displays. The nest itself is a simple scrape in the ground, in which the bird typically lays three or four eggs. The young of most species are precocial.
The sandpipers exhibit considerable range in size and appearance, the wide range of body forms reflecting a wide range of ecological niches. Sandpipers range in size from the Least Sandpiper, at as little 11 centimeters (4.3 in) and 18 grams (0.6 oz) in length, to the Far Eastern Curlew, at up to 66 centimeters (26 in) in length, and the Eurasian Curlew, at up to 1.3 kg (3 lbs). Within species there is considerable variation in patterns of sexual dimorphism. Males are larger than females in Ruffs and several sandpipers, but are smaller than females in the knots, curlews, phalaropes and godwits. The sexes are similarly sized in the snipes, woodcock and tringine sandpipers. Compared to the other large family of wading birds, the plovers (Charadriidae) they tend to have smaller eye, more slender heads, and longer thinner bills. Some are quite long-legged, and most species have three forward pointing toes with a smaller hind toe (the exception is the Sanderling, which lacks a hind toe).
I believe that these Sandpipers are the Dunlin (Calidris alpina), a small wading bird.
The Dunlin is highly gregarious in winter, sometimes forming large flocks on coastal mudflats or sandy beaches. Large numbers can often be seen swirling in synchronized flight on stop-overs during migration or on their winter habitat.
This bird is one of the most common and best-known waders throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, and it is the species with which other waders tend to be compared. At 17–21 cm length and a 32–36 cm wingspan, it is similar in size to a Common Starling, but stouter, with a thick bill.
The Dunlin moves along the coastal mudflat beaches it prefers with a characteristic “sewing machine” feeding action, methodically picking small food items. Insects form the main part of the Dunlin’s diet on the nesting grounds; it eats mollusks, worms and crustaceans in coastal areas.