Black Skimmer Colony

Black Skimmers nest along the beaches of Florida in the summertime.

Photography Advice

Most people prefer intermediate telephotos with these birds. I always bring my Beast also for close-ups. Your best bet is to lie down on the sand. It's hard to keep sand out of your gear so plan ahead and bring a towel or something for your camera to sit on when you're not using it.

Black Skimmer Colony Blog Archives

  • More from the Black Skimmer Colony

    More from the Black Skimmer Colony

    Late afternoon is the best time at the Black Skimmer colony. The setting sun bathes the chicks in beautiful golden light as they eat fish
  • Father’s Day at the Black Skimmer Colony

    Father’s Day at the Black Skimmer Colony

    Another Father's Day at the Black Skimmer Colony, where the nesting is running early this year and the babies were already two weeks old
  • Other Birds at the Black Skimmer Colony

    Other Birds at the Black Skimmer Colony

    There were more than Black Skimmers to photograph at the Black Skimmer Colony. Cormorants and terns and a surprise oystercatcher...
  • Black Skimmer Colony Ramping Up

    Black Skimmer Colony Ramping Up

    This year's first Black Skimmer colony visit yielded lots of skimming opportunities and plenty of piggy-back rides! Babies are on the way!!
  • Food Fight!  Silly Laughing Gulls

    Food Fight! Silly Laughing Gulls

    On my last trip to the beach, a pair of ladies made friends with a flock of Laughing Gulls, who staged some great mid-air food fights!
  • Juvenile Black Skimmers in Flight

    Juvenile Black Skimmers in Flight

    The juvenile Black Skimmers grow up so quickly! Already they are flying and skimming like their parents.
  • Juvenile Black Skimmers Meet the Water

    Juvenile Black Skimmers Meet the Water

    I returned to Indian Rocks hoping to see the juvenile Black Skimmers head to the water and maybe fly. The surprise was the newborn chicks!
  • Week-Old Black Skimmers are Still Cute!

    Week-Old Black Skimmers are Still Cute!

    The week-old Black Skimmers are no longer wet from the egg, but they are still pretty cute! My favorite shot was a big baby yawn...
  • What a Mouthful!

    What a Mouthful!

    Tonight’s is going to be a short post, as I am putting the final details on my photography presentation that I will give this Friday as guest speaker at the Trout Lake Nature Center.  I’m really looking forward to sharing some fun images with some great people.  While I’ve been approached several times through my website to do a presentation like this, this is the first time that I’ve had the time to invest in preparing it.  I hope it’s as much fun as I think it will be! Today’s image is of a juvenile Brown Pelican that I found on the beach at Indian Rocks this weekend.  Pelicans are some of my dad’s favorite birds to photograph at the beach, and you can almost always find a friendly tame approachable one at Indian Rocks.  This bird had a small piece of wood that he kept tossing up and down.  I knelt down low to get the soft blue ocean behind him, then held down the shutter each time he aimed his open mouth at me.  Look at the details of his pouch!   We speculated that this juvie bird was tossing around the bark to practice handling fish in …
  • More Cute Baby Black Skimmers

    More Cute Baby Black Skimmers

    I returned to the beach for a second evening with the cute baby Black Skimmers, tiny clowns who are such a joy to photograph!
  • Black Skimmer Hatchlings (Cuteness Alert!)

    Black Skimmer Hatchlings (Cuteness Alert!)

    A visit to the beach with Black Skimmer hatchlings always yields cute photographic moments! Adorable shots from my favorite summer location
  • Tug of War – Black Skimmer Chicks

    Tug of War – Black Skimmer Chicks

    Recently hatched Black Skimmer chicks are always fun to photograph, especially when they play tug-of-war over a needlefish!
  • Double-Crested Cormorant Still Looking Spiffy!

    Double-Crested Cormorant Still Looking Spiffy!

    A Double-crested Cormorant surprised me this weekend. Still in breeding plumage, his bright blue eye and mouth are awesome!
  • Juvenile Shorebirds from Last Summer

    Juvenile Shorebirds from Last Summer

    I found some images from last summer that I had never processed.  In August I spent several mornings at Indian Rocks Beach photographing the nesting Black Skimmers, but the skimmers weren’t the only birds who posed for me.  The juvenile shorebirds also put on a show for the camera.  I especially liked the juvenile terns, who had reached the point that they were almost-self sufficient, but they didn’t know it yet.  They begged and begged for food! The birds above are Sandwich Terns.  The juvenile on the right was begging nonstop for food.  The mom on the left just didn’t seem to care!  The juvie threw his head back and forth and cried out constantly.  Juvies often continue this behavior, even after they have learned to fly and catch their own food.  Sometimes it’s just easier to have Mom bring you food than to find it for yourself! This Royal Tern parent was about as sympathetic to her desperate offspring as the Sandwich Tern.  It’s such fun to watch the juvies dance as they demand attention.  Once you spend any amount of time near a baby bird, with its constant nagging fuss, you recognize the same type of call in …
  • Teenage Skimmers Learning to Skim!

    Teenage Skimmers Learning to Skim!

    This weekend I returned to the Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach. It’s been five weeks now since the babies hatched, and three weeks since I photographed them as adorable two-week-olds.  I figured they were flying and learning to skim by now, so I headed over in the morning when the sun best illuminates the waves and the ocean.  I was greeted by a colony of teenagers – almost the size of Mom and Dad, not quite colored like them yet, but definitely on their way to adulthood! The colony is no longer confined to the roped-off area on the beach.  Adult and juvenile skimmers mill freely about the beach.  There are signs warning people to be careful about stepping on the juvenile birds.  But don’t worry, Mom and Dad are still making sure that nobody bothers their young ones.  I saw several adult skimmers dive-bombing people that got too close. I sat down in the sand with my Beast and 5D Mark III and did flight shots for most of the morning.  Even with the 5D’s great autofocus system, photographing birds diving in the surf can be challenging.  I ended up putting it on single-point autofocus and panning …
  • More From Indian Rocks Beach

    More From Indian Rocks Beach

    I hope you’re not tired of reading about the Black Skimmers yet, because today’s post brings you more from Indian Rocks Beach! One of my goals for this summer was to capture the interaction between skimmers in mid-air during the nesting season.  I like to call these interactions “skimmer skirmishes,” when two adults take to the skies to fly at each other to resolve what I’m guessing is a territorial dispute. I see these skirmishes most often when there are small chicks in the colony.  Photographing the skimmer skirmishes is harder than it sounds, since the background to the colony during the sweet afternoon light is a bright pink condo building.  Not the best background!  So you have to wait for a pair of birds to fly high enough that you can frame them against the sky.  This summer I managed to get several decent shots, and the image above is my favorite. This skimmer flight shot was taken around 4:30pm, when the light was still very harsh.  I took the image into Nik Color Efex Pro and experimented with it a bit, to see if I could reduce the harshness of the shadows.  I think it was the Paper …
  • Two-Week Old Black Skimmers

    Two-Week Old Black Skimmers

    Several weeks ago, I returned to the Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach to photograph the two-week old Black Skimmers. The little guys had grown up quite a bit since I photographed them as newborns.  Some would say that the two-week old Black Skimmers are less cute than when they were tiny babies, but I thought they had a lot of fun personality.  They no longer sit patiently under Mom’s wing – the world is theirs to explore, and they don’t understand the meaning of the rope around their little stretch of beach! My dad came with me that afternoon, and we arrived at the colony at about 4:30 PM.  Boy was the light harsh!  The sunlight against the bright white sand was blinding.  We found that the birds had extended their area way beyond the roped-off section.  Juvenile skimmers were running around in front of the ropes, blending into the seaweed and running after any adult with a fish.  We settled down to watch and laugh. The above photo with Mom and chick illustrates how much the babies have grown.  Nature’s camouflage is fun to watch as these little guys blend into the holes they are now big …
  • Learning to Fly

    Learning to Fly

    I returned to the Black Skimmer colony two weeks ago to check on the babies.  It had been two weeks since I was there to photograph the day-old chicks, and I knew the babies had grown a lot.  I was hoping to catch them in that big-kid-but-not-yet-teenager stage, and I succeeded!  I’ll have more pictures soon, but in the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to share a little sequence of a baby stretching his wings and learning to fly. This little guy was my favorite of the day.  He was a little younger than his siblings, and he still had quite a bit of white fuzz to him.  He spent the afternoon sitting in his little hole, begging his mom to shield him from the sun.  It was a very hot afternoon!  Then as the sun started to set, he got up and did the cutest little hop-skip-jump.  I know his wings aren’t fully formed yet, but he’s already practicing for the big day! I’d been observing other chicks doing their hop-skip-jump routines all afternoon, but they always seemed to do it with their backs to the camera.  You can imagine the grin on my face as my favorite …
  • Black Skimmer Chick Fillets!

    Black Skimmer Chick Fillets!

    The weekend after I returned from Maine, my dad and I drove to Indian Rocks Beach to check on the Black Skimmer colony.  We found that most of the eggs laid after Tropical Storm Andrea had hatched, and the colony was full of tiny newborn Black Skimmer chicks.  They are so cute!! My friend Debbie from south Florida drove up to see the skimmers, too, and we had a blast watching the little babies.  Almost every scrape had one or two chicks, and a couple had three little guys.  You could tell that some of them were newborns, still slightly wet from the egg. The adults brought in fish after fish to feed their young offspring.  Each time a new fish was brought in, a flurry of wings ensued.  Which family was the fish for?  The adult didn’t always seem to know which kids were his!  Then he’d be chased by all the neighboring chicks, who all wanted the fish.  After he located his own family, he had to select which chick got the fish.  The biggest one were always the most demanding, and the adults had to work hard to isolate their younger babies in order to feed them. …
  • Skimming, Scratching, and Shadows at the Black Skimmer Colony

    Skimming, Scratching, and Shadows at the Black Skimmer Colony

    Cuteness alert!  The Black Skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach was doing very well in the week before I left for Maine.  The birds were again on eggs after Tropical Storm Andrea wiped out most of their colony.  These birds are more stubborn than bad weather.  A few surviving chicks from the first batch stumbled around, learning to use their legs, while their younger cousins were being incubated just inches away. I wanted an opportunity to practice with the autofocus system of my new 5D Mark III camera, so one of my objectives for the morning was to do some flight photography.  In the times that I’ve visited the colony, I’ve observed the most skimming in the mornings, which is when the light angle on the ocean is best.  My poor Beast felt neglected as he lay beside me while I used my intermediate telephoto and hand-held my new 5D III. The 5D III’s autofocus system really is fun.  Flight photography is easy with the multiple autofocus point selection options.  At times I found myself missing the crop factor on my bigger bodies, but the extra resolution on the 5DIII means you can crop the images and still have a …