Snowy Plover, Charadrius nivosus: Estero Lagoon; Fort Myers Beach, Florida
A couple of weeks ago I was in Florida. Yes, I was in Florida the first week of July, and yes it was hot, hot, hot, but not as hot as Alabama. I went because I heard that there were a few Black Skimmers with young chicks at Indian Beach. So, I was off to try and photograph them.
I found lots of skimmers with fledgling three or four weeks old, but I also found four pairs with chicks less than a week old. I also discovered that Estero Lagoon on Fort Myers beach still had a colony of skimmers as well. After a couple of mornings at the Indian Beach colony I went on down to Estero Lagoon. There at Estero, I found a large colony of skimmers. All the skimmer chicks I found were fledging, or about to fledge and I had plenty of opportunities to shoot.
The biggest surprise however was not the simmers, but three Snowy Plovers, still on eggs. These plovers must have been birds whose earlier nest had failed, but there is no way to really know that. They may have simply been late nesters. Whatever the reason I was very shocked to see them on eggs. There was also another pair of plovers that had chicks that looked about a day or two old.
I shot this Snowy Plover from ground level laying on the sand with a bed sheet over my body as camouflage. The bird was quite at ease as I shot the first few images and even closed its eyes and seemed to be sleeping at times. I must admit, that when it closed its eyes mine became very heavy as well, and I had to force myself to look for any behavior to photograph.
As I lay on the sand with the morning sun beating down on me I thought, “will this plover ever move.” Finally, and much to my relief, a least tern chick resting about seven feet away began running right toward the Snowy Plover. When the tern chick was a foot away form the plover’s nest, the plover, like lighting bolted toward the chick hitting it with such force as to cause it to tumble head over heels for about three revolutions. I grabbed this shot as the plover returned to its nest and settled over its egg. Without that Least Tern chick, the only photos I would have of Snowy Plover would be birds sleeping on the sand.
By the way, the little tern chick was just fine. Once on its feet it made a Bee-Line to mama.
Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f4, 1/2500 second @ f9