The baby Black Skimmers that I photographed four weeks ago as hatchlings are already learning to fly. But I’m a little behind on my blog, so we’ll back up a few weeks to when they were just a week old. That diet of needlefish must pay off well. The week-old Black Skimmers are much bigger than when they first hatched, but they are still pretty cute!
It’s pretty hot on the white sand in the scorching Florida afternoon sun. The smart babies know how to deal with the heat – they dive under the shade that Mom and Dad provide! It doesn’t pay to get to the colony really early in the afternoon, as the light is bad for photography, and the babies won’t come out. If you wait till 5:30 or later, the sun is no longer as high in the sky, and the late afternoon breeze kicks in to cool both photographers and their subjects.
At one week old, feeding is not as much of an effort as it was for the hatchling skimmers. These babies have a week of practice of getting those big fish down their throats, and with each fish they eat, the babies get bigger and bigger. No longer do the needlefish seem ridiculously disproportionate to their little bodies, although they are still quite a mouthful. It gets harder and harder to photograph the feedings, because the babies don’t take as long to swallow!
Most of the fish get covered in sand before they arrive at the mouths of the chicks. Maybe it’s little skimmer-salt? Well, my grandmother always did say that each child has to eat a pound of dirt!
It’s easy to anthropomorphize these cute creatures. I think the little guys will go poke at Mom’s beak to tell her that they are hungry. But it looks very tender, almost as if the babies are confiding their great secrets to their patient mother. “Mom, little Johnny in the next hole says that these little stubs are for flying…when can I do that, Mom, when?”
The week-old Black Skimmers do a fun little thing that I like to call the “hop-skip-jump.” I think they are exercising their wings, preparing for that wonderful day when they will take flight and follow Mom out to sea. But you have to run before you can fly. The baby skimmers are challenging to photograph as they run around flapping their wings, adding in little hops at random. They don’t exactly give a five-second warning. It’s tough to get them coming towards the camera, in focus, and isolated against a white beach background. In the shot above, I was focusing on Mom and her cuddly chick when the little gymnast decided to stretch his wings.
This next shot is the same family, as the sun set. It always amazes me how quickly the light fades about twenty minutes before sunset. The little ones look happy to see the sun go away. Mom was barking a call to her mate. She looks alert and happy as she gets a break from the harsh rays of the sun.
Speaking of sunsets, I haven’t shared many of them lately because they haven’t been too spectacular. Puffy clouds in the sky really make a beach sunset photo pop. Otherwise, you end up with an expanse of beach and an uninteresting orange sky. But on this night, there were a few wispy clouds on the horizon, so I used my Beast to take a few quick shots of the giant orb as it disappeared below the horizon. What a way to end a fun afternoon with friends and birds!
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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