Photographing The Unexpected — Greater Yellowlegs
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One should never become complacent when one is out photographing wildlife. The pastime is made more exciting by the fact that unexpected subjects keep turning up.
I was out yesterday morning looking for birds to photograph in agricultural country near Tucson. I’ve described this habitat previously. It consists of a vast expanse of desert that has been converted to agricultural use with heavily irrigated fields. As I drove along I passed a roadside ditch. It had some water in it, either as a result of recent Monsoon storms or, more likely, as runoff from irrigation. A bird caught my eye and I stopped to take a look, and then, to photograph it.
The bird was a Greater Yellowlegs and it was busily working its way along the shoreline of the drainage ditch, looking for insects and invertebrates to eat.
In theory, this bird should not have been there. The bird guides describe the habitat of Greater Yellowlegs as consisting of shallow water and mudflats. This is habitat that one doesn’t expect to see in southeastern Arizona.
But, these birds — and several other species of wading birds — are not here by mistake. As I said previously, the fields in Arizona’s agricultural flatlands are heavily irrigated. Usually, there are fields that have been flooded with up to several inches of water. There are also irrigation canals and the occasionally muddy ground caused by over-irrigation or infrequent rainfall. Greater Yellowlegs and other wading species have adapted to the conditions in the flatlands and are now at home here in small but apparently stable numbers.
In this second image the Yellowlegs marches along water’s edge. It is passing a Killdeer, a species that needs only open ground and not necessarily water as habitat. Killdeer are present in fairly large numbers in Arizona’s agricultural country.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 f4-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4 X telextender at 560 mm, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8. The first image shot at 1/1600, the second image at 1/2000.