by Laurie Brice
Just a quick reminder that spring migration for birds and other animals is in full swing and offers wonderful photography opportunities. Maryland's woodland, bay and ocean beach locations as well as those in Delaware and Virginia offer unique vantages for viewing the ancient travels of the many species all following available food sources and preparing to bring forth the next generation.
Horseshoe Crab spawning is taking place now and with it the migration of bird species that winter as far away as the beaches of South America. They are on their annual trek to breed north of the Arctic Circle. The abundance of crab eggs supplies the energy-rich diet they must have to survive. The cold spring this year made predicting best viewing days in DE, MD and VA more difficult than usual but the birds are passing through. We observed thousands of Sanderling, and numbers of Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, and yes even a few Red Knots this past weekend. With the weather warming, there's hope that the week ahead will provide great viewing even though the full moon has passed.
Crabs are best viewed on the high tide after dark. The full and new moons provide the highest tides that are most favorable for egg laying. The birds that appear on the mating beaches are best viewed the following day when the exposed mud flats can be packed with birds at low tide and the surf line packed with action as the tide rises and exposes eggs.
The best vantage points for observing are the Delaware and New Jersey beaches of the Delaware Bay although spawning takes place along most of the Atlantic coast of North America. We usually visit the Delaware beaches. They are a quicker trip from Annapolis. The trip home today took less than two hours. Start your visit by stopping by the Research Center on the Mispillion River, view the film and ask the staff for pointers but arrive before their closing time at 4 PM.
The links below will help you understand the crabs and birds and plan your trip. There's a degree of luck in arriving on THE night and following day to see large numbers of crabs and birds but at this time of year, even less productive days offer photographic delights.
No matter how long the lens you take, you will probably wish it was longer. Make the best of the lens you have. We all feel that way. Take a tripod. If the birds are beyond the reach of your lens, you can still watch through binoculars or just with your eyes. Don't miss this opportunity. Wear earth-tone colored clothes, shoot from a low angle. Approach the birds slowly to get closer without bothering them. Bug spray is a good idea especially when it gets warm and don't forget your sunscreen and hat. Happy shooting!
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See you out there shooting!
Chris and Laurie
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