I returned to the Least Tern colony in mid-June to visit my little babies. How time flies! One of the babies that I photographed on my last visit was already fledged. He fledged at 15 days, which is a few days faster than normal. The habitat at this colony is perfect for Least Terns! They banded the baby and dubbed him Tribble. Here he is sporting his new jewelry…
It was another morning to lie on my stomach and stay still so that I didn’t disturb these birds. These pictures were all taken with the 2x teleconverter on my 600mm lens. It let me see deep into the colony, where other tiny babies were being fed.
Life in a tern colony is tough. The predators are everywhere – the gulls, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and the ghost crabs. Way off in the distance, I saw terns throwing their wings up repeatedly, and I knew they were fending off a predator. This one successfully chased off a ghost crab.
Then sometimes the babies venture off into the territory of another family, and the adults get aggressive. I saw this adult repeatedly flying in and attacking this baby. Eventually the baby returned to his mom.
I loved it when the birds flew in right in front of me. This bird was still in full courtship mode. He brought in a fish and presented it to a female, who wasn’t interested in his advances. It’s hard work finding a mate!
The terns weren’t the only birds who charmed my camera that morning. A Snowy Plover chick was running around the beach. He was almost 3 weeks old at that point, so he surprised me when he burrowed under Mom for a quick snuggle. Maybe he was using her for a shade umbrella!
A Wilson’s Plover chick foraged near me too. He was close to fledging. His neck is all black because his feathers haven’t quite finished filling in there yet.
It was such a privilege to hang out with these little guys. I returned to the car completely covered in sand with a huge grin on my face!
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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