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As I was driving in the rain through the Palouse, looking for interesting barns and hills and horses and other regional photographic subjects, I saw a dirt clod move.  Since I was on a very lightly travelled gravel road, I immediately stopped the car, then backed up to take a closer look.  The hopping dirt clod turned out to be a killdeer, foraging for insects in the recently plowed field.

I gradually inched the car back for a better shot.  Cars make fabulous bird blinds, especially in the rain!  I was able to get only one shot of this bird before it flew away.  I was lucky that it had a pleasing body and head position, fully open eye, no feathers blowing backwards in the wind, etc.  I would normally take a number of bird images to increase my chances of getting some good ones.

A week later, I chanced upon a very cooperative killdeer near Grand Coulee, also in the rain, and was able to get some good shots of it, and with a much nicer (less cluttered) background.  I’ll post those in a few weeks.

I’ve photographed killdeer in a number of locations around the west.  They’re often fairly approachable if you move very slowly and cautiously.  I even got images of a pair of killdeer mating last year, in central California.

They’re very striking birds for their size (a little bigger than a robin) because of their pretty coloring (brown-orange, black and white feathers) and intense red-orange eyes.  Seen from the front, they wear a double “necklace” of black feathers.  They’re very “color-coordinated.”

So the moral of the story is:  if you’re driving along a country road and you see a dirt clod moving, STOP!  Go back to investigate.  And always have your camera ready.  You may just find yourself in the right place at the right time.



  1. Great pose from the bird.

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