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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus

Blog: View from the Dune by Steve Zmak, April 14, 2014

Snowy Plover
Rare Western snowy plover nesting now in the beachfront dunes in Sand City. (Photograph: Steve Zmak)

Western snowy plovers are challenging to photograph. First, they're federally listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act with dwindling rare habitat so just finding them is the first hurdle. Second, they are easily confused with the more plentiful sanderlings that do not have the black head markings. Third, they're small, well camouflaged, and very fast. Once I spot one or a group, I have to get down on my stomach and crawl very slowly towards them. I do this when they aren't looking at me. When they do turn and look at me, that’s when I click. Then move and little closer; click. Move a little closer; click click click, but careful not to disturb them. They're very sensitive to intruders such as humans and dogs when they're nesting March through September. I found 3 on the beach less than 2 weeks ago where the proposed Ghandour 39-acre Monterey Shores Resort would remove more of the western snowy plover's habitat, so don’t wait too long to view them there. You can also ignore the "No Trespassing" signs posted on the gate at the base of Sand City's biggest dune. The Coastal Commission ruled them to be illegally posted some years ago.

Plover nest sites
Click to enlarge


Ventana Chapter member Steve Zmak is a commercial advertising and fine art photographer based in Marina, California available for assignments, projects and workshops: .