Birding in the Tundra

I am on a Moose Peterson workshop in Churchill, Manitoba to photograph the nesting migrating birds.  Why?  Because most of the shorebirds display dramatically different plumage when mating and these images can only be caught here!  So we are on our second day and I wanted to share with you come of the images from yesterday.  After the workshop I will stay on for another week to get more of the same, except they will be different.  Yes they will be nesting migrating birds, but they will be different species as they arrive here to breed.

The climate can come as a bit of a shock, yes i know this is the frozen north, but remember I was in Florida only a few weeks ago and they had a “hot” April.  Here the daily highs have been in the region of 34 – 36F!  The Hudson Bay here is still all Ice as far as you can see.


OK – the birds

1. Semipalmated Plover (Chararius semipalmtus)

This was the first shorebird we saw and in its typical fashion was very busy running around on the mud and pond looking for food……



2. Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica)

An early gold medal find.  Prized because of it’s bright brick red mating plumage.  A very early premium siting.  First we saw the female and then the male came into view.  Clearly a mating pair, they made their zig-zag search for food, but kept within a short distance of each other.















3. Horned Greb (Podiceps auritus)

Again obviously a pair, swimming around on this pond.  As a Grebe the male knows he has to do all of the work to build the nest and court while the female remains apparently nonchalant.  We plan to revisit to see how the nest building is progressing……



4. Willow Ptarmigan (lagopus lagopus)

I had only just asked Moose whether the Ptarmigan would still be in winter plumage (because it still felt like Winter to me!) and we spotted a Ptarmigan just up the track from the Grebe’s.  This young lady was a bit too timid and ran away before we could set up.  Driving between sites, I spied this female Ptarmigan by the roadside.  So we drove past, got our gear together and slowly edged toward her.  She was initially hidden in the willow brush for a good ten minutes, but eventually emerged – as you can see and her plumage was in perfect camouflage with her surroundings …..




While we were gradually moving closer with out flushing her, announcing his arrival by his call, a male arrived and perched on the top of the power poles.  He soon flew down so we started shooting him, inching nearer getting great shots.  During this display the lady seemed quite unimpressed and unresponsive, so he just sped off in search of another bride!

Ptarmigan_0120739 Ptarmigan_0120612 Ptarmigan_0120536 Ptarmigan_0120498


Gear:  Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VR II, Nikorr TC-20E III, Really Right Stuff tripod, Really Right Stuff Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film

One Response to “Birding in the Tundra”

  1. […] way of attracting the female to mate with.  You can see an example of that in my previous blog Birding in the Tundra where I show the brick-red chest of the Hudsonian Godbit.  Here I show the breeding plumage of the […]

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