Documenting flocks of waders on the beaches is pretty standard. Try to get to a decent distance and photograph the entire flock a few times. This will help to give you a backup.
Then do a quick scan count using the bins to get an estimate of the different species present. This may be your only count if a raptor or some fishermen flushed them away.
I will use the scope and do a detailed count of the most identifiable species first, one species at a time. Normally I will count from left to right and then back again. Once done, it is time to go through the flock and look for the rarer species that I missed during the first two counts.
When all these are done, I will move in slowly for closer shots of the flock and the different group of the waders. I will normally capture some of the small species that were missed. I found the Broad-billed Sandpiper this way.
Fighting over food is common among the LSP
Kung Fu Fighting!
The last part is the one I like most, capturing them in action or in flight. The Lesser Sand Plovers are always chasing each other squabbling over food.
They also tend to fly from one part to another in search of a better feeding spot. There are always disturbances from raptors and people spooking them to take flight. You will have to anticipate these occurrences and get ready to press the shutter. Needless to say there will be some hits and many misses. But it was always great fun doing this. Great if you get some good images on the sensors. Here are some of these taken at Mersing Bay early this week.
The beach is muddier on the other side for this Lesser Sand Poverr.
Many thanks to Ron Chew for his inspiring photos and posting of the Mersing Waders.
Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Birds Society of Japan 1993.
Ron Chew had been monitoring and documenting the shorebirds at Mersing for some time now. Mersing Bay turned out to be a stop over for many of the rarer shorebirds during the spring migration. The bonus of seeing them at this time of the year is that many of them are in their breeding plumage.
Early this week, I made my way up there and found two groups of roosting shorebirds. One flock consists of 500 Lesser Sand Plovers, 200 Little Terns, 100 Terek Sandpipers and I was told a few Grey-tailed Tattlers and Common Sandpipers.
Another cluster has about 400 Lesser Sand Plovers, 60 Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Grey Plovers, 20 Great Knots, 14 Kentish Plovers, a few Ruddy Turnstones, Common Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers and a Broad-billed Sandpiper.
Best time to photograph them is during late afternoon with the setting sun behind you. The tide should not be too low or else the waders will be feeding further out.
Lesser Sand Plover in breeding plumage
Lesser Sand Plover with Kentish behind
Kentish Plover in breeding plumage
Breeding plumage of a Lesser Sand Plover and a Kentish Plover.
Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia.Wild Bird Sciety of Japan. 1993.