There’s an unshakeable feeling that rises at certain times—that it’s been just a little bit too long since your last photo outing. It could be a week, or month—or horribly, even longer—but once that feeling gains a foothold, there’s only one thing that you can do: check your calendar, block out some time and head out to a favorite photo spot to spend a few hours outside with eyes through the viewfinder.
It is birds—shorebirds in particular—that call to me. I grew up on a thumb of land between two tidal ponds that fed into the Manasquan River along the Jersey Shore. Gulls, ducks, pipers and all of the stilt-legged pointy-beaked things are lifelong friends. Any chance I can get to spend a few minutes to a couple of hours alone among these winged sea-loving birds is always time well spent for me. Salt water course through my veins. When the call rises, I usually head for Sandy Hook, a spit of land jutting into the Raritan Bay, across from New York City, the northernmost point of the Jersey Shore, the nearest shore bird hotspot to my home base.
Walking gingerly into the saltmarsh, feeling with each step for where the raft of cattail straws strewn along the intertidal zone goes from sandy to boggy to a surprise tidepool while the laughing gulls cackle, terns trill, oyster catchers give a shrill whistle while on wing, a hint of sedge and dune grass on the salted breeze, the muffled roar of distant ocean waves and the more delicate and precise lap of bayside wavelets, the cool air and goosebumps of a foggy patch giving way to a warm kiss as the midmorning sun finally claims victory over the morning fog, the declarations and protestations of Red Wing Black birds perched atop poison ivy branches, the squeaking wings of a mourning dove alighting, and the impenetrable silence of a snowy egret on the hunt fill my senses.
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