© Gerhard Hofmann. Gerhard photographed this semipalmated plover in August, 2005 in California.
Some birds have rather bizarre names such as the rough-winged swallow, sharp-shinned hawk, and our featured bird, the semipalmated plover.
Beginning birdwatchers may wonder, what exactly semipalmated means, and why the species ended up with this moniker?
Semipalmated means partly-webbed, and refers to the skin between the toes. If you zoom in on the bird's foot, you can see the webbing, but this feature is very difficult to observe in the field, when the bird is often moving.
Many birds were named long before the use of binoculars for studying them. Birds were shot and then studied in museums. The partial webbing between the toes was quite evident when early ornithologists studied the bird in the hand.
So why does a semipalmated plover have partially-webbed toes? Perhaps it is an adaptation to the environment in which it lives. The webbing may provide some extra support as the plovers forage on muddy ground into which they might otherwise sink.
The birds were spotted as they walked from the shoreline towards the road so Gerhard decided to stay put and let the birds do their thing. As usual it was better not to approach the birds but let them get closer on their own.
Gerhard usually looks for the most likely path the birds will take. Sometimes he waits for just a few minutes, as with the plover, although sometimes the birds are not so cooperative and it takes hours hours of patience. It takes time for the birds to come close enough for pictures but the birds are less likely to flush when you start clicking away.
The plover picture was taken from the car using a Molar Bean Bag as a resting place for a 500mm + 2 x Converter. Because of the harsh lighting conditions around noon, Gerhard used a flash which for the long lens work has a better-beamer attached as a fill flash. To avoid unnatural-looking red or, as in the case of birds with mostly green or steel-like eyes, Gerhard mounted the flash on a bracket. A digital EOS (20d) camera was used.
For use of this, or other photos, contact Gerhard Hofmann at: Gerhard@hofmann-photography.de
Semipalmated plovers breed in the arctic but are found throughout the United States, especially along the coasts, during migration. They overwinter throughout the tropics and in the southern United States.
Learn more about the semipalmated plover: