What causes the Flush?

A group of Stilt Sandpipers at dusk in the Tundra Marshes of Churchill, Manitoba on the Hudson Bay.  They are happily milling around, preening but not looking for food – it is the end of the day, time for bed …


I am stealthily taking their photographs, because as a photographer while I am edging closer, inch by inch, the last thing I want to do is cause them to flush.  (Unlike a hunter!)

It is 9:30 in the evening and I am surrounded by the sweet light of that time of day, up here in June this lasts for a few hours as the sun hardly sets. ” Luvley Jubbly in’it?” as Del Boy would say.

Often the cause of the flush is another bird giving off an alarm call.

Other times a bird from the group takes off and leaves, those nearest that bird then leave, and so on until most have gone.

But sometimes, for no apparent reason (I didn’t move or make a sound – honestly) they all go off in a mad flapping of wings!  With a “thrumming” of their wings.


Often the flock will circle around for a while (the photographer tracking exactly where they are going to land) and land in the same or very nearby location.  In this case they went off into the horizon.

The “flush” is not a sharp and in focus images (which, to get them all in focus would be impossble with a super-telephoto lens) because I am trying to capture the essence of their movement in a still image, trying to give a sense of their urgency.  (I also just love the reflection from the still marsh water.)

   See Complete  Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)  gallery HERE

Gear: Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC-12E III, RRS tripod & gimbal head, Lexar digital film, Cabella hip boots


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