I love my off-Fridays! Rich and I took advantage of our three-day weekend to drive out to Indian Shores, where there is a nesting colony of Black Skimmers. The colony is located near the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, a really neat non-profit bird hospital. The sanctuary rehabilitates birds and releases them back into the wild. We saw Screech Owls, a Redhead, several Roseate Spoonbills, and lots of Brown Pelicans. Dyeyo would have enjoyed all the Black-Crowned Night Herons hanging about, and even nesting in the trees. But I spent most of my time down at the beach, with the skimmers. It’s the first time I’ve seen baby Black Skimmers, and they are so cute!!
The chicks started hatching about a week ago. Now the roped-off beach area has lots of egg shells lying about. The skimmers do not build nests; they dig out a small indentation in the sand and lay their eggs in it. Both the eggs and the chicks are colored to blend in with the beach, to protect them when the parents fly away to feed. This chick wasn’t quite done with the protection of his egg. He was hungry, and since Mama wasn’t feeding him, he was picking up everything he could find!
I positioned my camera at a good sun angle, then lowered the tripod as far as it would go, allowing me to get down to a bird’s-eye level. Lying on the beach may look funny, but it lets you get fun birdie portraits. It also means you don’t move around a whole lot. I stayed watching the same families of birds for at least a half hour, maybe more, between repositions.
This family was one of my favorites. There were several small chicks, and one egg. It was fun to watch the parents as they tried to brood their chicks and incubate the egg at the same time. The chicks wiggled around a lot, coming in and out of the wings of the adult. The egg just sat there. I wonder which one the parent liked better? :)
Sometimes the parents would fly away from the chicks for a few minutes, sometimes to feed, and sometimes to ward off approaching people or birds. I was happy when the babies were left uncovered, as it meant less cluttered photographic opportunities.
As the sun set, the adults let the babies come out more. (During the daytime the babies stay tucked under the parents, who shade them from the hot Florida sun.)
Lots of fish started to be brought in by the parents. It was hilarious to watch an adult skimmer come in with a fish. He’d be bombarded by Laughing Gulls, other adult skimmers, and the oldest baby skimmers, all of whom wanted to steal that fish. So the fish-carrier would run left and right, trying to out-maneuver everybody until he found his mate or his offspring and delivered their dinner. I like how this picture has the fish “victor” in focus and the onlookers blurred in the background…
Those little babies can certainly do a little dance when they beg for food. They put their little stubby wings out and look as cute as they can in order to attract Daddy’s attention. I tried over and over to get a picture of a chick running at me with his wings out. It’s harder than it looks, because they typically run to the parents, and so if they do run at you, there’s usually an adult bird in the way. Here was my best attempt from the night:
I had to laugh when I saw that I’d captured this little jump!
The sunset light was awesome. The little chicks were bathed in this warm golden light that was just beautiful. It was the perfect end to a great night!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Black Skimmer Colonies?
Check out my Black Skimmer Colonies page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!