Sunrise and an Almost-Lifer

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It was a beautiful morning.  The breeze was cool before the the heat of the day.  The  sky was wakening and so were the birds.  A perfect morning to be out on the beach.

Dawn on the Beach
Dawn on the Beach

The clouds were faint wisps on the horizon, perfect for a gorgeous sunrise. Which happened a few minutes later…

A New Day
A New Day

Turtle tracks abounded.  Every couple of feet we’d come across the marks in the sand made the previous night as turtles came on shore, laid their eggs, and returned to the ocean.  I used to envision a sunrise photo with turtle tracks as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.  Like most things in nature photography, it’s not as uncommon as you’d think – you just have to know the right place and time to show up!

Turtle Tracks
Turtle Tracks

As we walked along the beach, I paused and looked up into the dunes.  There was a pale white bird sitting quietly in the seagrass.  I almost walked right past him!  I stopped and stared, because I didn’t know exactly what he was.  His beak was like that of a gull, but I’d never seen one so worn.  My first impression was that he was some sort of pelagic bird blown in, and he made me realize that the beach, while beautiful, also sees its share of sickness and death.  I took a few photos of the bird.  Later I tried to identify him, and had to call on several bird friends before coming to an absolute conclusion on his identification.  He was a first-summer Herring Gull.  I hope he was feeling better than he looked, and that by now he’s well on his way to a fresh molt of feathers.  Almost a lifer, but not quite… ;-)

Herring Gull (First Summer)
Herring Gull (First Summer)

Want to learn more about nature photography at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge?

Check out my Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

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