I can’t believe it’s already almost the end of July. This summer is flying by so quickly. Usually by now I’ve made several visits to the Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach, but this year, they nested early and I’ve only had time for one visit, when most of the chicks were about two weeks old. That was such a good outing that I split the images into two blog posts. The first was from early on in the evening, when the hot sun beat down on the white sand, and the baby birds kept under Mom as much as possible. This second set of images is from later in the evening, as the sun started to set and cast its beautiful golden light on the colony. That’s the best time for photography. The light is gorgeous, the parents bring in fish for a before-bedtime snack, and the babies are cooler and more visible.
This particular nest scrape had two chicks, and one was significantly smaller than his older brother. They were fun to watch. The big guy beat up his little brother quite a bit, but the little guy was pretty good-natured about it. Here I love how the two are posed, with the older bird in the background, just opposite of his little brother.
This was the other small chick that I found that evening. Most of the chicks had passed the cute “small and fuzzy” stage. This little guy was running around stretching his wings, practicing for the day that he’s big enough to fly. This year there’s quite a bit of green vegetation growing in the middle of the colony. It makes for more interesting photos.
When the chicks are just a day or two old, Mom and Dad work hard to bring in tiny fish for their tiny kids. But within a few weeks, the babies are big enough to swallow some pretty big fish. These two went bananas over the needlefish that Mom offered them…
…and within a few seconds, the chick had swallowed it! That fish is as long (or longer) than the little bird. Mom looked on proudly (or was she just making sure that no other hungry chick stole the food right from her baby’s mouth?)
There was such excitement among Mom and the babies when Dad would fly in with a fish. The babies would hop up and run to greet Dad. Sometimes that meant that they’d run straight for the camera. I’m not sure my photos always convey the excitement and urgency of the chicks as they run for their food.
Towards the end of the night I found myself mostly photographing this pair of siblings. They were very animated. In the shot above, I think the bird on the right was afraid that the bird on the left would get the next fish. He wanted to make sure his brother knew who was boss!
When the next fish came it, it didn’t surprise me to see who got it. But don’t worry, Mom and Dad made sure that the little guy got dinner, too. :)
Fish were coming in and going down faster than I could photograph. It’s no wonder the baby birds are growing so fast. They eat a lot! Hopefully I will make it back to the beach before the colony disbands. It’s always fun to see the juvenile birds flying and skimming in the ocean waves.
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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