Photographing birds is perhaps one of my greatest joys, and this Least Tern just added to that joy. I have made a couple of trips to the Biloxi tern colony over the last twenty years and have been happy with the results each trip. But this trip, I photographed a particular pair of birds over a period of four days that gave me some really nice images.
Least Tern, Sternula antillarum: Tern Colony; Biloxi, Mississippi
I had no idea how long incubation had been underway, but the pair I was photographing was at the very edge of the colony. They were most likely latter nesters since the choice nesting sites are at the center of the colony. The terns at the center of the colony already had chicks. I had hoped that eggs would have hatched while I was there, but it just did not happen.
To photograph this tern, and all the other tern images taken, I used camouflage. While still at home, before heading to the colony I purchased a beige sheet (twin size), and spray painted a few blotches of green to mimic the green vegetation on the beach. I also used a pie pan with ball head attached as my camera mount. This places the camera low to the ground giving a tern view perspective.
Once on location I check for birds nesting on the edges of the various colonies in relation to the rising sun. Once I found my spot, I arrived the next morning about twenty minutes before sunrise. Long before sunrise a tern colony is a swirling mass of birds. Some flying out to sea, others returning, and other just irritated by their neighbors. I quickly found my spot at the edge of the colony, wrapped the sheet over my head and body, then, lay down on the sand. Perhaps this is a good place to say that I would love the beach if it were not for all the sand. Sand gets in everything, but I must say it is more comfortable laying is sand than gravel.
As soon as I covered myself with the sheet the birds that had flown out to bombard me with tern poop were back on their nest. As soon as I pulled the sheet over my body the danger had disappeared. I lay on the beach for two and half hours each morning shooting the birds as they went about their morning activities. Typically the female incubated, and the male would make forays to the Gulf to fish that it would bring back to its mate. While I was invisible to the birds, I often thought that the birds knew I was there. On occasion, after delivering a fish to its mate, the male would walk toward me and give an inquisitive look into my camera lens. It was as if he knew I was there watching his everymove. Or, perhaps he was just wondering what kind of idiot would bring such an expensive lens to a wind blown sandy beach.
Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f/4, 1/2500 second @ f/8.