American Avocet, Winter Colors

Image: American Avocet, Winter Colors

Description: When winter shuts down the Sierra Nevada and erases all bloom in the deserts, I head to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area on the fringes of Moreno Valley in Southern California. There, each winter, I find large numbers of shorebirds, ducks and raptors in a remote setting with excellent access to shallow ponds. I have photographed 10 different raptors there, including Peregrines, Merlins and Black Shouldered Kites. For much of the winter, photographers must yield the area to duck hunters two days a week. But the rest of the time it is a bird photographer’s playground. The elegant American Avocet develops cinnamon-colored neck feathers for spring breeding. This one sports only winter’s black and white.

Specific Feedback Requested: A question of cropping, as to how large the bird should be in the frame, considering the lovely background reflection. Thanks.

Pertinent technical details or techniques: Olympus EM1, 1/2500th, F5, ISO250, 150mm (300mm equivalent), handheld.


Hi James,

This is a real treat for me, I almost hate to admit it but I’ve never seen one of these, I think I’d remember a beak shaped like that. At least I hope I would.
What a unique and wonderful looking bird! :slight_smile:
And IMHO, you did a great job at capturing it.

Personally, I think it looks good as far as the size in the frame, however, it might benefit from cropping some off the bottom just to eliminate that equal amount (when mirrored top to bottom).
Alternatively, you could include a bit more canvas on the top if you have more that was cropped out for this composition?
Either might be an improvement but it looks awesome as presented. :slight_smile:

Thank you Merv !
Where do you live? I’ll bet you have birds I’ve never seen in Southern California.

I am an Avocet nut from way back and feel privileged to have access to them each year.
Running a close second as my favorite freshwater shorebird is the Black Necked Stilt (attached), also abundant at San Jacinto, and wonderfully tame for patient photographers.

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A wonderful image, with perfect whites and blacks!! (All three, actually, with fantastic reflections!) The Avocet in flight is the perfect framing, for my taste. I think there is enough canvas around the bird – smaller in the frame would lose some of the lovely detail and larger would make it feel crowded.

A small nit, but my eye goes to the spot of blue just behind the head – easy to remedy.

Thanks, James

I live all the way on the other side of the country (NC) :slight_smile:
I’ve been to Southern California many times but that was in my youth and I never had time to just look around, it was all business back then.
Many of my trips were to San Bernardino, then north to Bakersfield and south to Chula Vista near San Diego. All good memories but I wish I had taken more time to notice nature during that phase of my life.

We may have some birds that you’ve never seen but I doubt there are any as interesting as the Avocet and Black Necked Stilt.
BTW, the Black Necked Stilt is another first for me so thank you so much for that one as well!

These Black Neck Stilts are amazingly beautiful in their own unique way IMO. Really nice images of them as well!

I had to look up what the summer colors of the Avocet are since you stated that this is their winter colors.
Their heads are a wonderful copper/bronze color in the summer which is even better IMO.
I can see why these birds are some of your favorite subjects. They would have that affect on me as well.

Thanks again, James and I hope you have a wonderful afternoon/evening!

Thanks Merv and good shooting to you.

Thanks Diane. Like your dragonfly portfolio.

Very good photo…I love the colours and abstract shapes in the water behind the more graphic black and white bird. Their beak is so lovely and I love the mirror image of the beak which adds to the story. If possible I would try equal spacing to from the to and bottom to give equal attention to the bird and its reflection. Well done!

Thanks Robena. I like your owl in flight – what camera and lens?

Hi. I have a Canon R5 and RF 100 to 500. This is the first camera I have bought in decades and I think will last me quite awhile.

I agree — solid kit to grow into