My last visit with the Least Tern family left such a smile on my face that I got up early and returned to the beach the following morning. Rich just rolled his eyes and said something about crazy bird photographers. What, doesn’t everybody get up at 3:30am on weekends? ;-)
Aw! Isn’t that a cute face? He was totally worth the early morning drive!!
When I first arrived, Mom and Dad were very busy trying to stuff as much fish into the little chick as he could possibly swallow.
Already he seemed to have grown from the previous day. It’s hard to believe that he’ll fledge just 19-21 days after birth. In that short time, he goes from being a helpless little chick to a juvenile fully capable of caring for himself.
Mom and Dad continued to take turns incubating the egg of Junior’s unhatched brother. Every few minutes I silently pleaded to see a hatching. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Mom reach down and throw out an eggshell? Then Junior would get to meet his baby brother. Then even more fish would start coming in! Alas, it was not to be. By the time I left, Mom and Dad seemed to have stopped incubating the egg.
Look closely in the photo above and you’ll see the tiny chick asleep under Mom. Dad brought in another fish for breakfast, but the chick wasn’t hungry. Mom got up, offered it to the chick several times, and finally ate it herself. I guess the baby isn’t the only one who’s hungry!
The baby moved around a bit more on this second day, although he was still pretty wobbly on those tiny legs. Sometimes I’d get lucky and he’d move a tiny way away from Mom and Dad, letting me photograph the tiny bird all alone on the wide expanse of beach.
This little guy was active. I had fun trying to catch his little jump sequences. He’d suddenly do these little hop-skip-jumps that were just adorable. It’s too bad that he wouldn’t do them on command, or always run towards the camera! ;-)
After a while Mom and Dad moved him about a foot from his nest scrape, close to some branches and debris on the beach. The little tern blended in very well with his surroundings, which seemed to make Mom and Dad a bit less concerned about his safety. We didn’t have any close run-ins with ghost crabs today, which was a relief for both the birds and the photographer!
I was surprised at how active the colony continues to be. A few older chicks were running around in the back. Several families had tiny chicks. More chicks are on the way, too, judging from the fish exchanges that I saw…
So there might be more posts from this colony this summer! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Matanzas Tern Colony?
Check out my Matanzas Tern 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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