Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chasing a Ghost..

I recently went on an outing to count populations of the unusual Black  Tern.  It is unlike most Terns that frequent coastal areas in that it prefers fresh water marshes, where it hovers to spot prey and then dips down to pluck small fishes and invertebrates from the water's surface. Its flight is as unpredictable as a butterfly in the wind, and it is small.  The idea of photographing them in flight became a compulsion for me. It was necessary to use the unheard of shutter speed of 1/1250 second.  The rate of misses was a humbling experience, like chasing a ghost.  I finally got a few to share.

All this said, they are a beautiful and graceful little flyer as they sweep across the shallow marsh looking for prey.  They still have nestlings to feed in early July.

 On spotting activity, they shift into a hover mode.

Quickly, they plunge down to snatch the prey from the surface, and if successful, they will immediately fly off to their nesting colony.   This time it caught a small minnow.

The loss of habitat had reduced the Black Tern, until conservation efforts encouraged a rebound. Now, I will always be looking to see these little acrobats and enjoy the show as they return each summer.

Paul Schmitt

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