Showing posts with label least tern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label least tern. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Least tern courtship, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display on the beach in Massachusetts

Here's a series of images from a foggy morning photographing the courtship rituals of least terns on the beach at Sandy Point State Reservation.

Least tern courtship display

He arrived ready to woo her with his fish, but their mating attempt appeared to be unsuccessful this time. They fought a little bit over the fish, but the female came away with it in the end.

Male least tern offering a fish to a female

Least terns attempting to mate

Least tern passes a fish to another in a mating display


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Least tern chick with parent, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick walking on a Massachusetts beach

It’s been so much fun to observe the least tern and piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation. Having the chance to see both in such close proximity makes the difference between the life histories of the species so striking. The plover chicks appear curious and brave, moving quickly across the beach looking for food on their own, occasionally returning to brood under a watchful parent. In contrast, the young terns are clearly more dependent as they wait for their next meal to be brought back and they appear rather awkward as they run across the sand. Regardless of how they are raised, both are certainly adorable in their down feathers!


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Least tern chick at sunrise, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern chick snuggled with parent in Massachusetts

A young least tern chick enjoys the comfort of its parent’s embrace at sunrise. Its sibling was tucked under the far wing, but perhaps this one enjoyed feeling the warmth of the first early rays rising above the Atlantic. At one point, it ran out onto the sand, apparently thinking that its other parent was coming back with a fish, but once that moment passed it came back to snuggle in again.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Least tern rival, Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display with a small fish

This series of photos shows one of the more interesting least tern interactions I observed earlier this month at Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. The female was sitting in the wrack line well outside of the temporary fence erected around the main breeding colony. I approached carefully and took up a spot lying in the sand to observe her in the hopes that a male would bring in a fish to share. It didn’t take long for one to arrive. He showed off his prize, but she really didn’t seem interested in taking it from him. He persisted in offering the fish for a while, from multiple angles, and I laughed this off as another rejection of a male’s advances (a common theme on the beach that morning).

Eventually, she settled in to rest, and rather than flying off to find a different female to impress, he scarfed down the fish and took up a position nearby. At this point, I started to suspect that perhaps they were already a pair, and she was just full of fish that morning. From my position in the sand, I enjoyed watching her do a little preening before tucking in her beak and closing her eyes.

Least tern pair sleeping on the beach

Before long, another male noisily arrived to offer his catch to her, and the first male quickly jumped to the occasion to defend his (apparent) relationship.

A male least tern lands with a fish to offer to a female

There was rapid-fire action of vocalizations and posturing, with the female literally in the middle of it all.

Two male least terns fight over a female at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

During a brief standoff, it wasn't clear to me which way this fight would go.

Two male least terns stare eachother down in a fight over a female

Without any physical interaction, the couple thwarted the interloper, who flew off to show his fish to someone else, and they both settled back in. I quietly wished the tern couple luck, and carefully crawled away in the sand before wandering further up the beach.

A least tern flies away after unsuccessfully offering a fish to a female

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Least tern courtship at Sandy Point State Reservation

Least tern courtship display at Sandy Point State Reservation, Massachusetts

Dreary fog and low visibility did not deter the courtship rituals of a large flock of least terns at Sandy Point State Reservation earlier this month. The start of breeding season is such an exciting time of year on the southern tip of Plum Island, regardless of the weather. While I saw a handful of piping plovers running over the exposed tidal flats, the highlight of this trip was definitely having so many opportunities to enjoy the fish-offering antics of least terns. While I saw a couple of successful transfers between terns, the majority of the interactions I witnessed involved an excited male flashing its catch to an otherwise uninterested female. It was rather comical to watch the females repeatedly turn away as the male desperately tried to impress. Eventually, he would give up and fly off to try to impress someone else.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Least tern delivers a fish, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a least tern delivering a fish to its partner

While I was watching this least tern incubating its two eggs on the beach, I had the pleasure of observing its partner bring it a fish. In the excitement of this unexpected moment, I unfortunately clipped the tips of the wings of the bird who stopped by only briefly enough to hand off the fish and fly off again. While I'm excited to have a nice record of the moment, I'm a bit bummed that I made such a technical error. I waited around for a while longer to see if I would be lucky to witness another exchange, but unfortunately it never came. A valuable lesson that I've heard before, but failed to execute, is that when photographing birds that are likely to flap their wings (like in this case, or especially with birds that are bathing in shallow water), it's always better to zoom out and leave extra space. You can always crop away the excess later, but you can't regain the tips of those wings in post-processing.

Photograph of a pair of least terns on their nest sharing a fish

View more photographs of terns.


Submitted to Wild Bird Wednesday -- follow the link for this week's posts!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Least tern on its nest in the sand, Sandy Point State Reservation

Photograph of a least tern incubating its eggs in a nest in the sand

This summer, I have primarily been enthralled with photographing the piping plover chicks at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts, but there are other species of breeding birds in the park as well. While there were a handful of little tern chicks running about the beach already, this adult was taking care of its two eggs nestled into a small depression in the sand.

Least tern looks as its two eggs at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts

View more photographs of terns and gulls.