The baby Black Skimmers sure have grown! To think that they were just hatchlings in mid-June, and by mid-July, they are already taking to the water. I returned to Indian Rocks two weekends ago to try for juvenile Black Skimmers in flight. The light wasn’t great, but the juvies put on a great show for me. Look at this one skim!
Now, the babies are almost as big as their parents, but they somehow don’t seem to realize it. They’ll still run up to Mom and beg for a fish and some shade under Mom’s wing. I finally got a shot I’ve been trying for all summer: the juvie skimmer running straight at my camera, doing his “beg for food” dance. But Mom wasn’t obliging him, and I wondered if he’s reaching that “tough love” stage when he has to fly for his own food!
Indeed, the only food that I saw brought in wasn’t for the teenage skimmers. It was for Mom and Dad. The food wasn’t tiny needlefish or some of the other delicacies reserved for the tiny chicks. The fish were huge, and they got tossed around in the skimmers’ beaks for a while before the fatal gulp.
In the early morning hours, I saw plenty of adults skimming in the water, but relatively few juveniles. Then around 10:00, it was as if the recess bell had rung. Moms lined up the kids and marched them down to the water. The juvenile Black Skimmers went wading in the tidal pools, which gave them a chance to get a drink and practice walk-skimming without having to deal with the bigger ocean waves. I watched plenty of test flights as the juvies tried out their wings.
One juvie had a bit of an embarrassing morning. He flew in, tried to skim in the tidal pool, and managed to fall over his head. My dad laughed so hard watching him. I guess learning to fly is a little like learning to walk. It’s not as easy as it looks!
The morning ended with half of the roped-off colony almost empty, with most of the adult and juvenile Black Skimmers down at the water. What a change from just a few weeks ago! Pretty soon the babies will be off on their own. I’m so glad that there wasn’t a hurricane to disturb the colony again this year. It’s such fun watching these birds grow up!
A picture is worth a thousand words, so this video must be worth at least a thousand pictures. Turn up your sound and listen to the cool, relaxing waves. The barking sounds are the adult skimmers, and the insistent little cries are the babies. Doesn’t it make you want to run to the beach? :)
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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