Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greetings Greater Yellowlegs

Bright eyes, long Yellowlegs, slim toned body, sharp-beak...sounds like the perfect woman eh, one about which many quirky Indie-rock ballads will be written and sung on college campuses across the U.S? Well, surprise surprise, these are also characteristics of the stylish Greater Yellowlegs.

These sharp looking birds are pretty common around the larger Phoenix ponds and canals during the migration months and, to a lesser extent, the winter time. Unlike some of the similarly shaped Stilts and shorebirds that also frequent these habitats, the Yellowlegs like their privacy and are harder to approach. I spotted this bird at the Fountain Hills Lake a few weeks ago, where it was feeding in the water down below a berm. Nearby joggers and onlookers by darned! I left my dignity with a change of clothes in the car and began the wet, grass-staining belly crawl along the top of the berm towards this bird, knowing that this would be one of the better photographic opportunities that'd come my way.

With the elevated berm concealing me from the bird, I focussed the camera, dialed down the exposure compensations, and prepared to fire away. One or two more adjustments, a few more feet of crawling,  and then...ATTACK!
Ugh, photo-bombed by a Coot. He jumped in front of my shot like an old pro. These guys would make excellent bodyguards if they could ever go for more than ten seconds without attacking each other.

The American Coot moved on and, luckily, the Yellowlegs was still there. The larger size, longer beak,  more upright posturing (not always), and general sense of elevated superiority help tell this bird apart from Lesser Yellowlegs, which are also less common around Phoenix. I love the black perforations along the feathers.
Yellowlegs are dainty and delicate, but they also like to fly around and belt out their rattling alarm calls when I really wish they wouldn't. There may not be any great Indie-rock songs about these birds yet, but I'm sure some enterprising birders will get on it soon.  


  1. Beautiful photography Laurence. I love all the fine details! You could teach me a thing or two! You are one brave and determined soul!

    1. Thank you Kathie. Every once in a blue moon the distance and lighting and bird all cooperate to make a nice photo, but it does seem like that's few and far between.
      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

  2. Nicely done Laurence! I laughed at the photo bomb part. Coots are notorious for spooking their neighbors. Drives me crazy! But excellent work:) You got the shot:)

    1. Thanks Chris. They're big liabilities. I have a similar problem with MOurning Doves and Black-necked Stilts, which don't always spook and flush easily but when they do, they usually have a total freak out, make a ton of noise, and scare everyone else in the area. This is especially bothersome since they're often not even the bird I was trying to see/photograph.

      Oh well. At the end of the day, when there's nothing else going on, the Coots will still be there providing entertainment and joy, so I guess their more obnoxious antics are just part of the fun.

  3. I really feel that you should have flanked the bird instead of essentially "bear rushing" it, ha. All joking aside, these are great photos!

    1. Thank Tim,
      I have a constitutional right to bear arms, so bear rushing seems to be a logical extension of that eh?
      Nah, the proper approached for photography are still something with which I need lots of practice. This time around the lighting and reflections from the water, plus the bird's white coloration were limiting factors.

      I'm really starting to think that investing in a compact and cheap kayak would be pretty swell for waterbird photography.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I love Yellowlegs, great post on them Laurence!


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