Blog

A Summer to Remember

Photo by Northside Jim

Photo by Northside Jim

Where do I even begin? 

It’s been a summer to remember, for sure. It’s also without a doubt the only thing I will be thinking about and probably talking about for the next nine months until we start all over again. Words cannot simply describe how truly blessed and grateful I am for this opportunity. Being involved with the beach nesting bird community has been life changing, and it undoubtedly holds my heart. 

When I took my first photograph of a piping plover only a short year ago, I had no idea of what was to come. Nor did I know exactly how much influence a quirky little shorebird could have on me. Well, it was more than enough to convince myself to become an environmental science major in college, and get involved in the conservation movement as soon as I could. Boy, am I glad I did. Before I knew it, I was hiking miles on the beach with a dedicated crew locating birds, nests, chicks, predators, habitat and anything else imaginable. It was impossible not to get hooked! We were all uplifted by the total awesomeness of piping plovers, and fueled by the fight to keep them here. That is what matters the most.

Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without the amazing group of people running the research. I cannot say enough thanks to Michelle Stantial, Rebeca Linhart and everyone else who provided me with this opportunity. The work being done each summer is nothing short of amazing. From the second I set foot on the beach, I was in awe at how well everyone clicked and knew exactly when and where to complete the next task. Every single day in the field I was learning something new! I guess when you’re a first year, rising wildlife scientist there is a lot to take in. Well I surely had no problem catching on, and I gained a TON of necessary experience for my future! Tasks as small as filling out data sheets correctly, to those as life changing as banding my first bird. So much of this is dependent on the people you work with. I can’t even imagine a better crew to be stuck with for the summer. I surely made some life long friends and memories over the past few months, none of which would’ve been possible without you guys! Thank you!

I like to say I find myself here, at the shore. Everyone has a sacred place where they can just go to clear the mind and be free. For some it’s the mountains, or even a big city. But for me, it’s here. I find myself in the salt marsh, or laying belly down in the wet, low tide rack line with a lens in my hand. Where nothing else in the world matters at that exact moment except for the striking colors of first light on a flock of shorebirds, or the endless calls of seabirds coming from every direction. These are the moments where reality slips away for a little while, and the natural world takes over.

Luckily for me, I found myself pretty often this summer. When I wasn’t working at these beautiful places all along the coast, I was spending my mornings and evenings there. In only ten weeks, I picked up fifteen life species and added nearly 15,000 pictures to my hard drive! That’s a lot of birds! So for fun I figured I would list the species I acquired. Here they are in order:

  1. Whimbrel 
  2. Willet (I know, ridiculous)
  3. Seaside sparrow
  4. Purple sandpiper
  5. Gull-billed tern
  6. Clapper rail
  7. Mississippi Kite (quite possibly my favorite!)
  8. Red-necked phalarope
  9. Greater shearwater
  10. Little blue heron
  11. Black tern
  12. Red knot
  13. Marbled godwit
  14. European golden plover (thanks to Jesse and Ryan!)
  15. Least bittern

There were a few other birds present that I missed, but I am pretty happy with this list for now! 

I am still editing pictures as far back as June! When you shoot basically every day, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. There are still a handful that I haven’t looked through, because I put them aside to edit new shots. It’s somewhat of a never ending cycle. The good news is, there is a lot of awesome stuff in there. I am so pleased with the photo opportunities that came my way this summer. The shore is an amazing place to shoot, as there is always something going on it seems. I cannot wait to keep bringing more shots to the site! Stay tuned! 

As a season wrap-up, I felt it were necessary to post some of my favorite shots from the summer! There are almost too many to do this, so I decided to choose five. So, here they are:

Semipalmated sandpipier at sunrise. I found a stretch of natural beach on vacation in LBI and decided to hit it real early one morning. There wasn't too much excitement, but I was stoked to have this guy foraging right in front of me. 8/15/16.

Semipalmated sandpipier at sunrise. I found a stretch of natural beach on vacation in LBI and decided to hit it real early one morning. There wasn't too much excitement, but I was stoked to have this guy foraging right in front of me. 8/15/16.

Ruddy turnstone in first light. This was the first shot of the day one morning in Barnegat Light for me, and I really like the way it turned out. 8/4/16.

Ruddy turnstone in first light. This was the first shot of the day one morning in Barnegat Light for me, and I really like the way it turned out. 8/4/16.

I photographed this least sandpiper in Barnegat Light as well. This bird was super cooperative, just walking right up to me as I laid in the sand. 8/3/16.

I photographed this least sandpiper in Barnegat Light as well. This bird was super cooperative, just walking right up to me as I laid in the sand. 8/3/16.

This was the second marbled godwit I had seen in as many weeks. I took this out at Holgate one morning during a piping plover resighting survey. Surely wasn't a piping plover but super exciting! 8/3/16.

This was the second marbled godwit I had seen in as many weeks. I took this out at Holgate one morning during a piping plover resighting survey. Surely wasn't a piping plover but super exciting! 8/3/16.

Hello Stripe. This is an image from the series with her during early June. I don't think I ever posted this one. Peregrine falcon, taken on 6/2/16.

Hello Stripe. This is an image from the series with her during early June. I don't think I ever posted this one. Peregrine falcon, taken on 6/2/16.

That’s a wrap! I wish more than anything that I could just hit a button and start it all over again. It surely is sad thinking about the end of such an amazing field season, but I am trying my best to focus on what’s next. Hawk watch season will be here in no time, and that will lead us into winter raptor madness! This will hold us over until March and April, when we can begin thinking about shorebirds again! I cannot wait.

Thank you all for following along this summer! I got away from my weekly updates of work for a few reasons, but I tried my best to keep the posts interesting. I still have a few things to touch on about this summer, but I’ll save them for future posts! There will be plenty of new things to follow along with in the coming months, so be sure to check back. Another thank you to everyone who has made my site possible! There have been a bunch of huge transitions from the beginning to now, and it would not have been possible without the awesome feedback. Thank you!

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. If you ever get the chance, explore the Jersey shore. There are so many amazing things going on around here. You just never really know what incredible creatures you may stumble upon next.

To all my friends, see you soon! 

Farewell, from Tacey.

Farewell, from Tacey.

Farewell, from Biggie.

Farewell, from Biggie.

Until next time,

Kyle