A day in the Tundra Marsh

Yes, I am still here in Churchill, Manitoba.  Although the workshop concluded on Sunday morning I am here putting my lessons into practice.

One of the pre-requisites for the workshop was a pair of “Hip-Boots”.  Something I had never heard of, but a quick search on the internet showed me what I had to get – so I did.  The Hip-Boots let me go into the tundra marsh to follow my target.  Well, yesterday I spent hours in the tundra marsh, sometimes with the mud and water perilously close to the top of the boot (Moose says when they flow over – it “sucks”).

My quarry was an elusive Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) and with Louise as my spotter with the binoculars we soon had a first sight…..


But the Whimbrel was having none of it!


So having made a mental note of where it had been I started to circle round behind the spot so that the light would be right if the Whimbrel returned to that area.  While carefully moving, checking that I wasn’t going to accidentally tread on a nest, there was a pair of Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus) moving in concert through the marsh, feeding.  This opportunity was too great to miss.  Although we had been shooting Dowitchers a lot during the workshop, it tended to be from the top of a dyke where the road was and angled down on the Dowitchers who were feeding in the ponds.  Now I was much nearer their level!  I think this shoot was the best I have for the Dowitchers…….





When the Whimbrel returned briefly, Louise signalled this while I was still working with the Dowitchers.  But it turned out still to be too shy.  So I stood patiently in the marsh, waiting for the Whimbrel.  After a while an American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) arrived and covered a lot of “ground” with it’s typical run, stand up, and just as I had the lens on it, about to focus, run on again (they are such darlings!).  The Plover was moving and feeding near the Dowitchers so this kept me busy for a long time…..


I really like making images that show different species happily working in a mixed group….


Then the Whimbrel returned.  Settled on the top of a mound of grass purveying the scene, looking in all directions.  This was my chance!  So I made a few clicks, lifted the tripod, camera and lens in front of me very slowly, made a few steps forward very slowly, slowly lowered the tripod and click, click, click watching the Whimbrel all of the time in case it looked spooked then I just froze until it calmed down!).  This was the technique taught by Moose and Kevin during the workshop, which we had used, but never knee deep in tundra marsh.

Of course I nearly fell or sat down many times.  I would look where I wanted to put my next foot – a couple of inches of water, like the last foot fall, but the mud would be soft and I would disappear up to my knee! Or looking at the Whimbrel, nearly trip over a mound of grass trying to move forward. Or nearly loose my balance as I moved forward and my boot didn’t (good job it was attached to my belt).

But it was worth the effort.  Some 45 minutes later I was getting the images I wanted. What a day!  Although the Whimbrel did have something to say about my shooting from time to time!

Whimbrel-Numenius-phaeopus_0121550 Whimbrel-Numenius-phaeopus_0121544





Gear: Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC14E II, Really Right Stuff Tripod & Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital film, Cabellas Hip-boots

2 Responses to “A day in the Tundra Marsh”

  1. admin says:

    Many thanks for your kind words Bruce. Yes, this is very exciting having such a fantastic start to my wildlife photography.

  2. Bruce KAY says:

    Another groups of excellent photos Richard and a great story to match. How exciting. You are producing great stuff.

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