|Black Skimmer, Winter Plumage|
Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger – Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge; Merritt Island, Florida: I have always loved the Black Skimmer, perhaps because of its unusual bill. The skimmers are quite unique as the length of their lower mandible is about 1/4 longer than its upper mandible, and is perfectly designed for how the skimmers catches its prey.
I have spent many hours watching skimmer feed. They are tactile feeders, and as their name implies they skim over the water with their lower mandible plowing a furrow through the water. When the bill strikes an object the bill snaps shut. If the object is its intended prey, a fish, the skimmer has captured its meal.
On many occasions I have tried to photography skimmers in action, but have always found myself too far to get the shot I wanted. This past March while crossing from Titusville onto Merritt Island, I saw a flock of black skimmers resting along the shoreline of the Indian River. I pulled off the road hoping I might get a shot or two of the birds.
No sooner had I pointed my camera at the resting birds, a sightseer walking his dog went right through the flock causing them to spring into the air. The birds flew back and forth along the shoreline for about a minute before settling back to their resting spot.During their sortie I captured a dozen shots of the skimmers in flight, and was surprised with this image. While I am pleased with the flight shot, I still want that image of the skimmer plowing its bill through the water. Maybe next season!
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 300mm f2.8, 1/640 sec. @ f10