Seashells and Shorebirds at Sanibel Beach

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Rich and I visited Sanibel Island last week on our trip to Cape Coral to see Burrowing Owls. I’ve always heard how beautiful the Sanibel beaches are, and how great the shelling is there. There were shells, and lots of people out in the early morning scouring the piles of shells to find the perfect ones.

Sanibel Seashells
Sanibel Seashells

I took a few quick pictures of the shells but was quickly distracted by the birds. ;-) I spotted a few shorebirds, Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers coming into their breeding plumage. Terns flew by, giving me nice opportunities for flight shots.

Royal Tern in Flight
Royal Tern in Flight

As we meandered down the beach, we came across a colony of nesting Least Terns. These tiny birds are such fun to photograph in their springtime courtship displays!

Shorebirds in Flight
Shorebirds in Flight – Least Terns, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, and a Laughing Gull

Least Tern courtship is all about the fish. Males fly out over the ocean and grab tiny fish from the water. They bring the fish back and present them to a prospective mate. It’s like a birdie way of saying, “will you marry me?” I had to laugh as one bird showed off his fish to a wooden decoy placed in the roped-off nesting area.

Will You Marry Me?
Will You Marry Me?

I’ve never had much luck with Least Tern flight shots. On this particular morning, opportunities abounded as the colony repeatedly spooked and took to the air. As the birds returned to the beach, they often came in with fish…

Least Tern in Flight
Least Tern in Flight

One of the females accepted the male’s proposals. He flew in with an exceptional fish, and he danced it in front of the female’s face for a couple of minutes. Then she accepted him. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll have baby terns on Sanibel in a month or so!

Least Tern Fish Exchange
Least Tern Fish Exchange

Want to learn more about nature photography at Sanibel Island?

Check out my Sanibel Island 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!

Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!

2 thoughts on “Seashells and Shorebirds at Sanibel Beach

    1. I heard about that! “Archaeologists unearth sandals from award-winning nature photographer” haha! I miss the days of shooting at Summer Haven. That colony was great. I haven’t been up there since the river was reworked.

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