This is the second half of the courtship and mating ritual of a pair of American avocets that I witnessed at Radio Road Ponds in Redwood City. Here's a link to Part 1.
As illustrated in Part 1, the male danced around the female and stopped to preen for a few minutes, each time seemingly gaining in intensity and getting closer and closer to the female. Soon enough he came right up to her side and began rapidly thrashing his bill through the water and splashing both of them.
As quickly and unexpectedly as he started splashing, he stopped and immediately hopped on top of the female. He seemed to have a little trouble finding his balance at first, but then was able to steady himself.
A brief moment of copulation followed...
...and the next generation of avocets was created.
It took him a little while to find his balance, and the actual mating was pretty quick, but all the while I was firing off frames and marveling at the incredible ritual I was watching. Even with the excitement of photographing this special moment, I was carefully watching my buffer counter, since I wanted to be ready to try to capture a few frames of what I knew was coming next. After mating, he hopped back down in the water, and the pair crossed bills and ran forward together for a few strides, the final step of their elaborate ritual. Unfortunately, I didn't get a really great shot of them running together, but it's such a wonderful moment to have witnessed through the viewfinder.