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Piping Plover Chicks and Parents

Discussion in 'Birds' started by jfenton, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    My wife and I have spent lots of time this spring sitting with Piping Plovers...first the adults as they mated and laid eggs and now with the chicks as they hatched and are growing.

    It is a tribute to mother nature that these eggs hatched at all. For three days during the high moon tides in mid June, the nest was flooded and the eggs completely buried with sand. On all 6 of those tides, mom diligently dug the eggs back out and stayed with them for 4 weeks until miraculously they began to hatch; three on a Tuesday evening and one not until the following Saturday.

    Sadly, the chick which hatched Saturday also gave itself back to the earth that afternoon. I was photographing it on the beach where it seemed happy to be alive and suddenly both parents began attacking it. While i was quite horrified watching this weightless ball of fluffy beauty being attacked, my thoughts were that there was something wrong with it's health which the parents could sense. Later that afternoon, it crawled back to the nest where it was born and passed on as my wife and I watched it struggle to survive. I've got to be honest...we both had tears in our eyes as we watched the ants begin consuming it even prior to it's passing on.

    Two days later a second chick disappeared, possibly having been consumed by one of the black back gulls hunting baby anythings on the beach.

    Two chicks remain and the following images are a few that I've photographed.

    Shooting down low on the beach presents real issues when using a TC and these birds are so small....golfball sized or smaller even.....as any amount of sunshine brings invisible heat waves wafting up-wards, even when the sand is wet. Therefore, not all of the images are the clearest but in these situations, I opted to take what I could get.

    Parental "broken wing diversion tactics" to lead one away from their chicks...(fairly hilarious to watch, especially at those times that the chicks would come and hide almost under our legs as we sat quietly watching when others would walk by). The following two images were shot with a Sigma 150 2.8 and a Sigma 1.4 TC as they were too close to use the 500.

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    210mm    f/7.1    1/2000s    ISO 250

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/9.0    1/1000s    ISO 250

    All following images were shot with a Nikon 500 AFSII by itself, with a TC14EII or a TC17EII.

    Parents and chicks:

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    850mm    f/8.0    1/250s    ISO 500

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/9.0    1/1250s    ISO 250

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/9.0    1/1250s    ISO 250

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/8.0    1/1000s    ISO 320

    Chicks on the beach:

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/7.1    1/1600s    ISO 250

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/8.0    1/640s    ISO 320

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/8.0    1/750s    ISO 320

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/7.1    1/640s    ISO 200

    Out for a stroll....

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/7.1    1/2000s    ISO 250

    Chick with prey....

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/8.0    1/1600s    ISO 250

    My first piping plover chick prey flip :) 

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    700mm    f/8.0    1/1600s    ISO 250

    Together (highly cropped, lots of heat ~ atmospheric issues, but darned cute :) 

    NIKON D2Xs    ---    850mm    f/8.0    1/500s    ISO 500
  2. Beautiful set Jim. The chicks are so cute and lovely.
  3. Hi Jim,

    Fantastic photos!

    You must have schooled the chicks to do a flip for you :cool: 

    Bob & Nan
  4. Absolutely stunning shots Jim. You are fortunate to have captured such unquie images. Excellent job, and a touching story.

  5. keirin


    Dec 31, 2005
    Another great photo series. The Tweedle-dum/Tweedle-dee one is especially fun!
  6. Wow these are all so good no way to pick a favorite, neat with the shallow DOF you must have been very close?
  7. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    Excellent set Jim.
  8. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    Hello Andreas

    Let's put it this way.....I was as close as my knees would crawl without spooking my subjects :) 

    In many instances I was just inside the focus capabilities of the lens. On a few I was as much as 50' away and even with the TC17EII on the 500, and HSC...I still had to crop heavily on a couple.

    One little guy kept coming so close to inspect the lens opening that I was convinced he / she was going to crawl inside the hood for a snooze!
  9. Great series. I know you devoted a lot of time to this project and it paid off. My favorites here are 4,6,7, and 11.
  10. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    Hello Allan

    Thanks :) 

    It's a good thing that they don't stay this small and cute forever.....I'd never get anything done at home!
  11. Now that is some exhibition of Superb Art Jim
  12. Glacier


    Jan 17, 2006
    Boaz, Alabama

    These are all wonderful but #9 is just way too cute!
  13. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Oh my my my are there any words for this spectacular series

    I only wish I was there to witness this miracle.

    I would love to see all the images:) ))

    Wonderful work Jim, Just wonderful
  14. awesome images Jim., very well done.
  15. HarryB


    Jan 28, 2005
    Viera, Florida
  16. Outstanding series. NG quality. Very well done Jim.


  17. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    Hello Folks

    I'm glad that you enjoyed them :) 

    Gayle....you would have been sitting and rubbing your knees off on the sand for a looooong time!
  18. cknight


    May 2, 2005
    Madison, AL
    Great series. Those things are just too cute.
    I think my favorites are 4,11, and the last one.
  19. Jim - Great post. I think I understand how difficult it must have been to witness the attack on the chick. I agree with your guess, but we will never know for sure what motivates these events. I've often struggled with would I photograph such an event, say if I witnessed a wild horse foal being attacked by a cougar. These are natural events, and yet it goes against my instincts to let nature take its course, which in these cases is the wise thing to do. Beautiful photographs and I very much enjoy your dialogue that makes the experience much more tangible for me.
  20. Geej


    Aug 11, 2005
    Northern Colorado
    These are wonderful captures! What sweet little chicks.
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