During a strong passage of migrating Semipalmated Plovers a few months ago, I found this single bird along the shore associating loosely with a small flock of Sanderling. While they were doing their usual thing, ie running up and down the beach "chasing the waves" as some put it, the plover stood still and unmoving for over a min before it finally began walking around and feeding. Consequently I was able to get rather a lot of reference and the sketches below are of the same bird. Standing as it did on a flatter part of the beach, the sand was often washed with a thin film of water as the tide ebbed and flowed. This created reflections of not only the bird but also the sky above. In some areas the sand began to show through as the water drained off and this effect was what I wanted to capture in my painting.
After washing in the background, I had to work slowly to accurately to get not just the shape and colors of the bird right but also its reflection which I felt was critical to the composition. Since it was near mid-day, the sun was close to directly overhead and the bird's shadow almost right below it - I took some care to get this right along with the reflected light on the underparts. In some ways, this is a perhaps a simplistic composition with the bird centered in the painting but I spent quite a lot of time getting the size of the bird and other spatial differences just the way I wanted them. I did this watercolor on Canson paper, size of this (and the sketchbook page below) is about 12" x 9".