GoPro, Plymouth Beach and Shorebirds

Over the past few year I have become increasingly interested in recording video of birds and other wildlife using any number of my Canon digital SLR bodies. The quality of the footage can often be remarkable and in many cases I find it more compelling then still photography.

The first test video I posted to YouTube in 2009 was of Harbor Seals off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s nothing special in my opinion but does show what you can do with a modest priced camera like a Canon 7D. I’m now using a Canon Mark IV and Canon 1DX.

As I’ve continued down the path of trying to improve the quality of the video footage I have also worked very hard at capturing “good” audio. However living in the Northeast this is not easy to do, in fact there are times when it is almost impossible. You are constantly fighting any number of man made sounds that “pollute” the video you are trying to record. A quick list would include: cars, planes, motorcycles, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers, snow blowers and yes even dogs barking. They all can turn what might have been a great video clip in to one that is simply average. If you do not believe me go to Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, Massachusetts in late May or early June and try to record “clean” video/audio of singing Red-winged Blackbirds or Marsh Wrens. Here’s a hint, once the planes from nearby Hanscom Air Field start flying you will have limited success.

Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Plymouth Beach, click to view GoPro video 1.

Okay so how are we going to get to the title of this blog post. The short answer is I bought a GoPro Hero 3 Black just over a year ago then a second Hero 3+ Black earlier this year. Then this past summer my plan was to try and record video from Plymouth Beach of some of the large flocks of migrating shorebirds. I know the beach well and have photographed shorebirds there for many years and if you hit it just right you can have thousands of birds feeding in the flats as the tide is coming in or out. Sounds easy right? Just get out there and place the GoPro in the right location, hit record and presto! Well as it turns out it is in fact NOT easy even when you have these large flocks of shorebirds. For starters they do not like the GoPro, it makes them uneasy when they are close to it and tend to jump away. So after some failed attempts I discovered I needed to cover the GoPro in seaweed so it would blend in to the beach. The results at times were striking and shows the viewer these birds at eye-level as they feed, interact and moved about. Even with the GoPro in the waterproof housing the audio sounds okay, not great but good enough.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover, Plymouth Beach, click to view GoPro video 2.

The bottom line for me at this time is I am hooked on GoPro cameras and planning new ways to record video of birds and other wildlife using this incredible tool. To see three clips from Plymouth Beach I’ve posted to YouTube click on any of the photos in this blog post or check out these links:

GoPro Plymouth Beach 1 (along the shore)

GoPro Plymouth Beach 2  (feeding on the flats)

GoPro Plymouth Beach 3  (low tide feeding)

Sanderling
Sanderling, Plymouth Beach, click to view GoPro video 3.

Hope you enjoyed this post and remember please help to protect wildlife and wild places.

Shawn P. Carey
Migration Productions

6 thoughts on “GoPro, Plymouth Beach and Shorebirds

  1. Shawn – these shorebird closeups videos are great.
    I know what you mean about sound – it’s hard to find some good quiet around here. Regardless, thanks for posting these…Plymouth Beach is one of my favorite places in the world.
    Peter F

  2. Thanks for sharing these! Very nice, almost like I was there but without the long walk!

    Did you notice the 3rd clip has a tagged bird @ 2:40? The number might be 281 or 781, not sure.

  3. Whew, hack, wheeze… I’m inhaling salt-spray and sand-grit, and tasting the wrack… so realistic I need a beer! Get down, Shawn!

    1. Hi JP, no tripod used for these GoPro videos. The GoPro camera was placed in the waterproof housing and attached to the flat plate that comes with the camera when you buy it. That gave me the low profile I wanted. I had tried a small Gorilla style tripod but found that was still too large and kept the GoPro up higher then I wanted. SPC

  4. Dear Shawn,

    I thoroughly enjoyed the shows. I teach at Joppa Flats and I would share these videos with my students and teachers to show them the “secret world” of shorebird feeding. We can never get close enough to watch them foraging like this.

    Just incredible!

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