Black-winged Stilt

MUD! I was covered in wet, sloppy mud after photographing Black-winged Stilts foraging on tidal flats. It made me think of the car salesman who spoke with derision about my preference for leather seats. Of course fabric upholstery can be cleaned but it’s great to jump in my vehicle when I’m filthy and know that it won’t take any effort to clean the seat at the end of the day.

 

Black-winged Stilt - Kim WormaldBlack-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
Canon 5D Mk III, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/800, f/6.3, ISO 100, focal length 400mm

 

Black-winged Stilts are so dainty, so ballet-like. I always enjoy watching them and it seems fitting that they can delicately walk through mud without getting dirty. These stilts are waders that measure about 37cm and feed on insects, crustaceans and molluscs. Their colouring is striking with red irises and legs, crisp white fronts and collars, the black at the back of the neck, black wings and long, straight, black bills.

 

Black-winged Stilt - Kim WormaldBlack-winged Stilt
Canon 5D Mk III, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 200, focal length 400mm

 

Black-winged Stilts move rapidly across the mudflats when foraging until something catches their eye, when they stop and stare intently. I wasn’t aware of any bugs or critters amongst the mud. And look how clean this bird is! Apart from a tiny speck of mud at the end of its bill it is immaculate.

 

Black-winged Stilt - Kim WormaldBlack-winged Stilt
Canon 5D Mk III, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 200, focal length 400mm

 

When this stilt spotted food, or a twitch or bubble from beneath the mud that suggested food, it thrust its bill into the mud. The food in its bill, in the image above, appears to be an aquatic mollusc.

 

 Black-winged Stilt - Kim WormaldBlack-winged Stilt
Canon 5D Mk III, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 200, focal length 400mm

 

If I’d been squatting on firmer ground I may have captured a sequence of this stilt as it flew low over the mudflats. Well, actually I did get a sequence of shots but the flight was brief and every time I twisted to follow the bird I slipped in the mud and didn’t quite nail the focus.

Part of bird photography is visualising the image you are after. I have a head full of images I’m looking forward to getting and many of them are based on near misses. After photographing this bird I’m imagining all kinds of beautiful stilt shots in early morning light.

Happy birding, Kim

 

 

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