This is a very unique bird safari.
Photographing these little birds is a study in patience and to a big degree,
luck. We hike down the beach in Ventura about a third of a mile before we
start looking for the little birds. Then for the next half mile we spend
our time looking for them, photographing them, and shooting the California Least
Terns that are in small bunches along the beach as well. At times you
don't see the little snowy plovers until they move or run - amazingly small and
as well camouflaged as any bird in North America.
While much of the breeding grounds are taped off to protect the nesting sites,
once hatched the little plovers and terns go wherever they want - mainly chasing
their parents and begging for food. Every few minutes the parents return
with little minnows to feed their excited young. Either by sight or
squeaky calls the young open their mouths to the arriving parent, eager for the
fish. The beach is not only busy with birds - plovers, terns, whimbrels,
and others, but also with joggers and their dogs, and surfers.
The non-breeding and fledgling terns seem to hang in mobile groups, flying up
and down the beach. The newborn terns are larger than the plover
babies and easier to spot and photograph. Sometimes the small minnows are
as big as the chicks. In addition to the beach we shoot nearby ponds
usually covered with birds - especially the nesting pied-billed grebes, and
travel up to Santa Barbara to look for the black skimmers. In 2019 the
birds nested early and we spent the second day photographing Peregrine Falcons
in San Pedro, so this remains an option if our timing isn't perfect.
We meet in Ventura, CA at 7am. The weather can change so dress in layers,
though we should have cool mornings and warmer afternoons. There
will be a sea breeze and marine layer at times. Kneeling in moist sand to get down
to eye level might require knee pads, or even a small camp chair for comfort.
Extra pants or shorts, extra tennis shoes not too valuable to get into salt water
- and a hat.