Beyond the Backyard

Juvenile Shorebirds from Last Summer

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Mommy! Make me a Sandwich!

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Chase

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Sandwich Tern chases fish in mid-air

While at Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend, I captured a fun sequence of images.  The Sandwich Terns were in a feeding frenzy over the ocean.  I tried to photograph them as they grabbed their fish from the ocean.   One grabbed a huge fish, dropped it in mid-air, then dove and caught it again.  It was a very exciting chase, and I was very happy when I checked the back of my camera and saw that I’d caught the whole sequence!  

Beyond the Backyard

Feeding Frenzy at Fort De Soto

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Doin' the Twist!

I had such a good time photographing the terns and gulls in their feeding frenzy at Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend.  I got to North Beach just after sunrise.  The feeding frenzy from the night before continued as hundreds of birds dove into the waves and pulled out their breakfasts.  There were so many birds!!  It was hard to know what to shoot first.  There wasn’t a lot of light, so I started with group shots… It was a nice breezy morning.  I followed the flock up and down the beach as they fed.  My still images weren’t capturing the masses of birds as well as I wanted, so I switched into video mode.    I chuckled as the gulls all walked to my left to get out of the way of a beach-walker. The sun took its time to peek out that morning.  I didn’t have enough light for good flight shots, so I put my wide-angle lens on and tried for some pleasing blurs.  Some well-known photographers pride themselves on making pleasing blurs, and often I look at their images, carefully crafted to be blurry, and think to myself, “hey, those are the accident shots that […]

Beyond the Backyard

Sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach

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Sunset on North Beach

Rich and I did an overnight trip to Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend.   I got to do one of my favorite things: photograph sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach.  It’s so beautiful there.  I love the white beach and the unspoiled coastline.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought it was great.  We came across this writing in the sand: We had our off-Friday before the long weekend, so we headed to the beach on Thursday afternoon in order to avoid the holiday crowds.  I was happy to find the beach deserted except for dozens of Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns.  There were lots of juveniles in the flock, all begging to be fed.  Mom would basically stand there and ignore them.  After they pestered her enough, she’d fly off and encourage them to go fishing with her.  Sometimes it worked.  Often the juvie would stay back on the beach, pouting! The afternoon light on the beach is so sweet.  I waded into the ocean in order to get the right angle for the shot of the terns above. As the sun started to set, I put on my wide-angle lens and looked for sunset […]

Beyond the Backyard

Alone in the Crowd

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The Sandwich Terns at North Beach made me laugh. I’m not sure if they were trying for courtship behaviors, or if they were just being silly. I watched several bring in nice fish, then just stand there trying to get attention from everybody else. Why didn’t they just eat their fish? Sometimes the crowd would catch on and start up a chase, but a couple of times the tern finally gave up and swallowed it himself. Funny birds.

Beyond the Backyard

Flying Sandwiches

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I really enjoyed my Labor Day morning at Fort De Soto this past weekend. When I arrived at North Beach just after sunrise, I found the beach covered in terns. It was funny how the photographers walked right past Big Red to instead focus on the masses of terns. I practiced a lot of panning that morning, trying to quickly lock focus on the fly-bys and pan with them to get them well back in the frame. This one was my best.

Beyond the Backyard

Early Fall Migrants at Fort De Soto

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Rich says I must have lost my marbles.  I got up at 4:45 this morning and drove to St. Pete in order to search for Marbled Godwits.  It’s been a few months since I’ve gone to the beach, and I was in the mood for some nice shorebird photography.  It’s funny that after photographing lots of birds around the state for the past few years, I still haven’t seen some of the most common birds, including the Marbled Godwits.  But I did today! It’s a little weird to think that fall migration has already started.  It’s only July!  It’s still really hot out!  But a variety of shorebird species leave Florida in late spring, lay their nests and raise their young in the tundra of Alaska and northern Canada, then immediately turn around and fly back down to Florida.  It’s a really long trip for these little birds. I arrived at North Beach at Fort De Soto just after sunrise, around 7:00 in the morning.  The area around the concession stands was simply covered in Laughing Gulls.  They feed around the picnic tables, where people share their picnic lunches (some willingly, others  not!)  The gulls are starting the molt into […]

Beyond the Backyard

My First Trip to Fort De Soto

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After hearing about Fort De Soto from birders all over the state, I finally drove over there to check it out. It was everything that people said, and better! I’m not all that familiar with the shorebirds. Before I went today, I couldn’t tell a sandpiper from a plover — and hopefully some of the identities I looked up today will stick for more than a day! I think all the bird varieties that I saw today are fairly common. I was really excited at the quality of my pictures. I was trying hard to get correct exposures in-camera, complete with fill flash (which I started using partway through the morning). I think I did OK, because I didn’t have to adjust exposure much in Lightroom. Disclaimer: Don’t assume my bird IDs are right here – it’s really hard to distinguish between similar shorebirds, especially since some have already molted into their winter plumage, some have not, and some are in transition. I got to the North Beach at sunrise and stayed there for about three hours. I was amazed at the tameness of the birds – they didn’t care a bit about the crazy lady carrying around a big […]