I’m not sure this post really needs words. My mom always asks my why I like to photograph that. It’s fun! Action photography! The birds are very amusing with their courtship rituals. I’ve often said that the fish exchange is like the human practice of giving an engagement ring. In fact, my favorite Least Tern courtship image is titled “Will you Marry Me?” Well, there were plenty of fish on Outback Key and more than one tern couple got engaged that morning…
Least Tern Couple One
The key to these images was getting low so that I was at eye level with the birds. I laid down in the sand and slowly slid forward to get a little closer. The birds were very focused on their task, and I have a really long lens, so I didn’t bother them. I liked how they were down by the ocean, so I could include the soft blue background in the image.
These birds chose a less photogenic location – an icky brown mud flat! I think they may have been juvenile birds, as they seemed to be figuring out the ritual. The male was very proud of his fish, and the female wasn’t always impressed!
I had to laugh at these birds. The female was very patient, even letting the male try a second time. But he wouldn’t hand over the fish! She finally flew away disgusted.
For these kinds of images, it’s important to zoom out (either with a zoom lens, or zoom with your feet if you have a fixed prime). It’s easier to crop a photo than to replace a clipped wing!
Least Tern Couple Two
I came across this pair not five minutes after I finished photographing the first couple. These birds were farther from the ocean, but by getting low in the sand, I still had a nice bird’s-eye view.
I loved watching the feet of the male in this last series. He has to do quite the balancing act to successfully perform this particular maneuver. He actually kinda fell off. The female enjoyed her fish and flew away. I suspect they had a repeat performance later.
I’m looking forward to going back to meet the babies! :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Fort De Soto?
Check out my Fort De Soto 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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