Several weeks ago, I returned to the Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach to photograph the two-week old Black Skimmers. The little guys had grown up quite a bit since I photographed them as newborns. Some would say that the two-week old Black Skimmers are less cute than when they were tiny babies, but I thought they had a lot of fun personality. They no longer sit patiently under Mom’s wing – the world is theirs to explore, and they don’t understand the meaning of the rope around their little stretch of beach!
My dad came with me that afternoon, and we arrived at the colony at about 4:30 PM. Boy was the light harsh! The sunlight against the bright white sand was blinding. We found that the birds had extended their area way beyond the roped-off section. Juvenile skimmers were running around in front of the ropes, blending into the seaweed and running after any adult with a fish. We settled down to watch and laugh.
The above photo with Mom and chick illustrates how much the babies have grown. Nature’s camouflage is fun to watch as these little guys blend into the holes they are now big enough to dig for themselves. They nestle down into the sand to beat the heat.
A few of the oldest chicks were flying already. These are the chicks whose eggs survived Tropical Storm Andrea. Their little cousins born a month or so later still have a few weeks before they will be flying, but their parents are already trying to get them ready for the big day. When the parents bring in fish for the chicks, they fly down to get their kids’ attention, then swoop off and make their chicks run after the fish. It really did seem as if they were showing the chicks how to fly. The little guys still don’t have all their flight feathers, but they ran in circles after their parents. Finally they’d get their food. Eating is no longer the big production that it was when they were newborns. Huge fish disappeared in a single gulp!
The juvenile skimmers are so cute when they beg for food. They hunch down, spreading out their wings, and beg. Please! Pretty please! May I please have that fish? Mom, you know I’m not old enough to go down to the water by myself yet…
You have to be fast to photograph the food exchanges these days. While the newborns would sometimes take several minutes to swallow their “chick fillets”, the older kids take no time at all to devour their fish. These guys know that they have to swallow it, or their siblings will get it. So the photographer must be ready with a fast frame rate, and hope that the baby turns towards the camera as he swallows.
As I wrote about in my last post, the babies do these cute little hop-skip-jump exercises as they practice flight take-off. They are so cute to watch! Their wings are still covered in fuzzy down, so they are not yet capable of flight, but they are certainly practicing. I hope to make it back over there to get shots of the juveniles skimming in the water. They grow up so fast!
I love the afternoon light at this colony. As the sun dips below the horizon, the colony is bathed in a gorgeous yellow glow. Of course, if you’re a two-week old Black Skimmer and you experience the sunset every evening, you pay more attention to itches and scratches than to the sunset!
The light actually disappears about 15-20 minutes before sunset. As the light faded, I had a chick right in front of me, snoozing in front of a branch. He was all worn out from running around all day! I wonder if he was dreaming of his first flight…
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!
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