Bird Watching swings into high gear at Plum island

Article by Jeff Folger of Vistaphotography.

Yesterday the temps climbed into the low 50s so I took my Dad with me on a little drive to the parker River National wildlife Refuge on Plum Island.  Now I will state upfront that I’m not a bird watcher like Butch Lombardi but I do enjoy getting out and making believe that I can photograph birds and wildlife almost as good as him. 🙂


Actually I just like to get out of the house and enjoying the outdoors (like most of us right?).   To me sharing my little excursions makes them more memorable and although my Dad is almost 85  he loves to get out of the house, as long as I’m not on one of my 13 hour New England foliage boondoggles.


Please check the map route below and you can see I got off of I-95 at exit 57, traveled into Newburyport on Elm street, then you follow this over to 1A south past the stately homes and then you catch a left on to Water street, following the road down to just past the bridge and a right turn onto the parker river refuge rd. (got all that?) 😛

Wary male watching over his mate Parker River National RefugeParker River National Refuge ducks from the duck blindParker River National Refuge floraParker River National Refuge swansParker_River-6.jpgParker River National Refuge Goose wathing

Butch would be able to tell you all about migrations and birding facts but what I do know is that during the spring migration hundreds of different species come in here to build nests, mate and produce another generation of offspring.

The  piping plover are starting their mating so on this Friday the beaches are closed to foot traffic except on specified paths.

This is one place that you need to bring your big glass. I was using my 70-200mm L IS lens with a 2x tele-extender so I had around 400mm and with the crop factor of my Canon 50D (1.6) so it was closer to 640mm… Sure didn’t feel that way though when the birds were only so far away and they don’t fill the view finder.


Several things are needed for birding, a sturdy tripod and a strong ball head to hold the camera absolutely still. I was shooting in bright sunlight at 500th/sec so I was able to freeze most things and the little motion I caused didn’t affect my shooting.

But if you have an overcast day or it’s early morning then you will need to also lock your mirror up because your shutter speeds will drop with the lower amounts of light and you will find yourself shooting at 125th/sec or slower and camera movement is intensified at the high magnification, even with image stabilization. (Did you know that IS/VR should be shut off when on a tripod?)


I was shooting in the late afternoon nearing sunset and all the birds that were there were feeding. To do this place right, the time to get there, is just as they open up, pay your fee, (no, it’s not free…) and you will have the sun to your back and you’ll be able to catch the color of the birds instead of like me and getting Silhouettes.

But I was able to get the sunset with a little cloud cover on the horizon which produced a nice red bit of reflection on the water.


So either way you do it early morning for bird purists or later in the afternoon for a more relaxing shooting experience,  you should have a great time.

OH.. you ask how did my dad like it?

Well he didn’t get out of the car so if he got bored while I was outside standing and waiting for a bird to do something.  He took care of that by blowing the horn to tell me it was time to move on…  I guess you can call it speed birding.. pull over,  set up,  shoot two to three frames and the horn goes off so you drive to the next spot…   and do it all over again, until the horn goes off… 🙂


Either way I hope you enjoy the images of Plum Island and the Parker River National wildlife Refuge and if you go there be sure to come back and leave a comment on how you did

Jeff “Foliage” Folger
To purchase an image from this article just visit my sites below or contact me.
Visit my Art images on Vistaphotography
Visit my Stock Photography on Photoshelter
Join my New England Fall Foliage page on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

My scenic New England travel Blog, photos, software tips and more


This entry was posted in Animals, Birds, Spring, Spring Migration and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Lee March 31, 2011 at 20:22 #

    I’m very familiar with Parker River NWR. I have to laugh because I usually end up seeing a better variety of birds in my neighborhood of Chelmsford than I see when I go there. I think it’s just my bad luck. LOL I do know people who are very successful when the go there. I’ll keep trying and I hope I’ll be able to get some nice images to post here.

    BTW; Your National Park Senior Pass is good at Parker River for free entry.

  2. Butch Lombardi March 31, 2011 at 22:58 #

    Plum Island is one of the top spots on the east coast for birding. From migratory birds to resident species you can find almost everything here. Like Lee said above, you have to get lucky too…