Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Black-winged Stilts

This post is for World Bird Wednesday.

Over the last few weeks we have seen Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) in several places around the bay where we have never seen them before. This last week I saw four at the Crab Creek roosting site, roosting with other shorebirds. Black-winged Stilts live in Australia all year and are only nomadic to different wetlands within the country. They have a most distinctive call which sounds rather like a very small puppy yipping.
When I first saw the birds at Crab Creek they were roosting with a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. I had never seen them standing beside Godwits before and their very long legs almost made the Godwits look short and dumpy!
When they flew off their long legs trailed behind them.
They then settled down in shallow water and I was able to get good views of them by themselves.
Extra:
Over the last few weeks I have had several comments and questions about kayaking with a camera so I thought I would explain what I use and how I use it.
I have a sit-on-top kayak made by Viking. Kayaks such as this are more closely related to wave skis than to the traditional kayak. I wanted something that was very easy to slide on and off - especially if I turned it over when I was out by myself on the bay. I had a shorter and wider model when I first started kayaking around here but - after a white-water kayak, with my son, down one of the rivers in the Olympic National Park in Washington State I wanted something a bit faster and more manoeuvrable! The flat waters of the bay were pretty tame after the white water of the river! Viking kayaks have a seat moulded into the hull of the kayak but I also have a stiffened fabric seat which attaches to the kayak and gives a better back rest.
I carry my camera in a Pelican case which are advertised as unbreakable, waterproof, and dustproof. These cases are totally sealed and on the few occasions mine has dropped off the kayak it has floated perfectly! I have it attached to the kayak with rope and also under some stretchy fastening behind me. When I get to where I want to take photos I can loosen the case from behind me and open it on my lap and take the camera out. Of course I only do this when the water is nice and still! Birds will let you get much closer on the kayak than when you are walking on shore. I get into position some way from the birds and let the tide and wind push me in closer. Waving a paddle around is guaranteed to make any bird take off. I know I have done a good job when I take my photos and then slowly push my way out again levering the paddle against the sand under the water - all without disturbing the birds!


25 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

the black and white stilts are incredibly handsome birds, even if those legs are almost silly long. :)

the kayak birding looks like fun!

Jedediah said...

The legs are amazing, especially in flight.

holdingmoments said...

Wow, those Black-winged Stilts certainly have long legs.

Carole Meisenhelter said...

beautiful photos; love the one of them in flight. They're so finely structured, and elegant.

heyBJK said...

Wow! Check out the legs on those Stilts! How cool! Great shots, Mick!

Gary said...

Stunning fellow!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

CameraCruise said...

Beautiful photos!
What a beautiful bird, I've never seen one before.
Love the second photo.

Andrew said...

Wonderful birds to see.... we had a breeding pair just a mile from my house in Cheshire a couple of years ago. They hatched three youngsters but lost them all to the weather and predation.
Many thanks for sharing yours.

chasity said...

the birds in flight is an amazing shot!!!! great capture.

NatureFootstep said...

this is the same one we have aroudn the Mediterranian area. I saw them in Camargue last year and in Malta this spring. A lovely species.

Nice to see your kayak. I have not seen that kind before. Am not sure it would work in my lake. I don´t have any casing on my cameras. But I have them tied to te kayak to. And I have them on the bottom between my legs. Like you it is only for nice weather. :)

Glad you came that close to the stilts. I didn´t. I had to rely to the long lens.

Debbie said...

that's a lot of legs....they are beautiful in flight!! i dream of long rides in a kayak!!

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful photos, the flight shot is awesome. This Stilt is a beautiful bird.

Martha Z said...

Stilts are one of my favorites. Our black necked stilt is similar bur the black on the neck extends up over the top of its hear.
I must be nice to kayak up to the birds.

Springman said...

There is so much to comment on here Mick. The Header photo is sublime, full of life and movement. I love the picture of the stilts in flight. There is an outlandish symmetry and balance there that defies logic. It is quite beautiful.
Awesome to see and read about your kayak set-up. That is quite a rig. We ride ten and a half foot river kayaks with very broad flat bottoms making them very stable in the calm Pine River. I like to use my 70 by 300mm lens on board. That pelican case you describe sounds like a winner.
Great post Buddy, things are really popping around you!

Stewart M said...

Hi there - stilts in flight are one of my favourite things to see - but I have not managed to get any decent pictures!

Thanks for putting up some kayak info - my moment of purchase moves closer!

Stewart M - Melbourne

Nature Rambles said...

What unique birds! I'm fascinated by their really long legs. The photo of the birds in flight is my favourite!

Arija said...

Goodness, they have legs like a stork! Great shots indeed Mick. Thanks for explaining how you get all these great shots.Great the way you can hold the camera steady with the movement of the kayak.

Hilke Breder said...

Fantastic shots of the Black-winged stilt, Mick! You made me curious with your remark of the voice of the bird and so I looked it up on xeno-canto.org and you are right - like a puppy. None of the recordings were from Australia though.

Rambling Woods said...

Oh my gosh...what an awesome way to be out in nature...I envy you..Michelle

bailey-road.com said...

The Stilts are lovely in flight, with those long legs stretched out behind!
Beautiful shots!

Larry said...

Super post on the Black-winged Stilts Mick! I find black and white birds like this difficult to photograph and you have done an excellent job!

That in-flight photo is priceless!

Liz said...

WOW! These are fantastic images! The Stilts in flight are absolutely brilliant.
All your images are wonderful. What a great way to bird watch with a kayak! I would love to have an opportunity like this to capture bird life. You are so blessed!
I only just stumbled on your blog through WBW and discovered you live in my city!!
I had no idea there was great bird watching habitat just up the road!
Again, brilliant shots. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I am your newest follower :)

Liz said...

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog! I am sure with your photography skills you could master similar macro shots!!
I, on the other hand, would LOVE to get to the places you do with your camera!!

Midmarsh John said...

Great shots of a lovely, unusual bird. Enjoyed reading about the type of kayak you use.

missing moments said...

Love that photo with their legs behind them! And glad to know about the Pelican case ... I've so wanted to take my camera out with me when kayaking but feared doing so.