More From the Matanzas Tern Colony

In mid-June, I had an itch to return back to the least tern nests of St. Augustine Beach.  So my childhood friend, Kim, and I drove up to Jacksonville to also visit my daughter for the night.  In the morning, we left for the colony.  When we arrived, it was at first much like earlier … lots of least terns bringing in, and flying around with, fish intended for the females.

20150530-DSC_2759 20150530-DSC_2769

As per last week, sometimes the female still didn’t take the male up on his offer.

20150530-DSC_2765

“Wait … you forgot to take the fish!”!  LOL

20150530-DSC_2775

It wasn’t just the least terns that were calling the beach home, the Wilson’s plover also had nests and young ones in the roped off nesting areas as well.

20150530-DSC_2683 20150530-DSC_2852

I did finally get to see a few of the least tern chicks as well, though they were mainly covered up or huddled next to one of the parents.

20150616-DSC_3095 20150616-DSC_3046 20150616-DSC_3178 20150616-DSC_3309 20150616-DSC_3242

Again, it was a bit scary when both of the parents would fly off and leave the young chick exposed.

20150616-DSC_3358

While some of the baby birds were out in the open, sometimes the parents strategically placed their young one in the grasses, which provided for a bit of protection for the little ones.

20150616-DSC_3317

During breaks in all of the action, some least tern preening was always on tap.

20150530-DSC_2799

When all else failed, there was a never-ending supply of males flying around with fish.  When the females would turn them down, sometimes they would just land nearby and devour it themselves.

20150530-DSC_2678

It’s my hope that the young ones survived their early days, when they were very vulnerable to predators and mother nature in general.

Wanted to squeeze in another trip to see them, but I had to get on the road with Tom for his cycling competitions.

Want more burrowing owls?  Well, stay tuned.   🙂

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Sunrise & Terns

I have always wanted to photograph the least terns as they nest and raise their young on the beaches in Florida.  My good friend Jess knew this so she promised to keep me in the loop when the time was right to do just that.  At the end of May, I was visiting our home in Gainesville and got up super early to meet her over in St. Augustine for not only the least terns, but early enough to try out a sunrise as well.

While I wasn’t sure what kind of sunrise we were going to get, being that the skies were threatening and rain was most definitely in the forecast, we figured that we would try anyway.  At first, the skies didn’t want to cooperate with the sunrise colors, but before long it got pretty good.

20150530-DSC_4580-HDR 20150530-DSC_4535-HDR

I just love the sand dunes on the beaches in NE Florida … reminds me of my days at UF and the many weekends spent at the beaches of St. Augustine as well.

20150530-DSC_4624-HDR

Such a beautiful beach, complete with a bit of a rocky shoreline in certain places.  I could have stayed here longer, but that wasn’t why we were up there.  Our quest was to see the terns, so off we went.

20150530-DSC_4662-HDR

As excited as we were to photograph the least terns, they were quite excited seeing us as well.  OK, not quite the same thing, but we quickly settled down into our shooting spot and the birds soon calmed down knowing that we were not a threat to them nor their nests.

20150530-DSC_2619

There was a lot of fish offering to the female going on … and to the male’s dismay, not much taking of the fish.  There wouldn’t be much “hanky panky” going on this morning.  Perhaps we were a bit early still.

20150530-DSC_2593 20150530-DSC_2594

Many of the least tern pairs were sitting on eggs … we could tell because they were fidgeting around when protecting them from the elements – heat especially, but also from the various predators whom might want to take their eggs.

20150530-DSC_2655

Once in a while, even though tending to the guarding of the eggs, they would get spooked and momentarily fly away.  I would always get so nervous when they did.

20150530-DSC_2670

Perhaps one of the most fascinating behavioral displays that I witnessed was their reaction to the resident ghost crabs in the area.  While many of the least terns were fighting amongst each other (over nest sites, a stray male offering a fish to the wrong female, some other mated pair getting too close, or a photographer moving too close or quickly), they sure knew how to unite for the cause when encountered with a potential threat to the entire colony.  Enter the ghost crab….

20150530-DSC_2715

Wings immediately go up in defense by the terns, as they call out incessantly to each other and I imagine scream at the crab as it makes its way.  Support comes in as they tag team against the crab, who in turn tries to defend itself as well.

20150530-DSC_2723 20150530-DSC_2729

They take turns … on the ground and in the air.  LOL

20150530-DSC_2736 20150530-DSC_2743

I was surprised at just how close that they get to the crab, who possesses some pinchers that I’m sure could inflict some pain.

20150530-DSC_2748

Every once in a while, one of the terns would get startled by the crab and would try to quickly retreat by flying away.  It’s quite entertaining to watch.

20150530-DSC_2750

But eventually the crab would retreat or make its way through the mine field of terns – all ready to defend their turf.  Funny because the terns are just part-time residents of the beaches, while the crab is residential to the area.  🙂

In the meanwhile, more fish are flown in to the available females, and more rejections follow.

20150530-DSC_2640

I visited the colony twice … once on this day and again a few weeks later.  More images will follow in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography