Skimming, Scratching, and Shadows at the Black Skimmer Colony

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Cuteness alert!  The Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach was doing very well in the week before I left for Maine.  The birds were again on eggs after Tropical Storm Andrea wiped out most of their colony.  These birds are more stubborn than bad weather.  A few surviving chicks from the first batch stumbled around, learning to use their legs, while their younger cousins were being incubated just inches away.

Black Skimmer Chick
Black Skimmer Chick

I wanted an opportunity to practice with the autofocus system of my new 5D Mark III camera, so one of my objectives for the morning was to do some flight photography.  In the times that I’ve visited the colony, I’ve observed the most skimming in the mornings, which is when the light angle on the ocean is best.  My poor Beast felt neglected as he lay beside me while I used my intermediate telephoto and hand-held my new 5D III.

The 5D III’s autofocus system really is fun.  Flight photography is easy with the multiple autofocus point selection options.  At times I found myself missing the crop factor on my bigger bodies, but the extra resolution on the 5DIII means you can crop the images and still have a big beautiful shot.  I loved the sharpness of the images!

That morning I found myself chuckling often at these silly birds.  I noticed them seeming to scratch themselves in mid-air, and I started trying to capture the behavior with my camera.  When I got home, I had dozens of images where the bird reached up and scratched his beak after a skim. I’m not sure what they were doing! Maybe they were making sure all those fish that they scooped up were nicely tucked into their mouths?

Skim and Scratch
Skim and Scratch

The sun finally rose high enough to cast some light on the chicks in the back of the colony. I saw the two little chicks that my dad and I had photographed the week before. They were already a lot bigger!

Then I found Nature Photographer Paradise. A few feet away, two tiny chicks were nestled up with Mom, on an open patch of beach with no distracting birds in the background. I moved my tripod down and observed the little family for over an hour. The babies were so hot in the 9am sun. They’d move to any shade they could find, which was usually in the shadow of Mom or Dad. Any time Mom moved away, the babies would go scurrying over to her, vying to be the first to make it under her wing. They were precious!

Seeking Shade
Seeking Shade

I’ve visited the skimmers twice more since returning from Maine. More pictures coming soon!

Want to learn more about nature photography at Black Skimmer Colony?

Check out my Black Skimmer Colony 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!

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