May 2, 2004

Caspian Terns

It was a chilly 37 degrees, the wind was howling off the lake, sand blasting my face, as the waves sent spray over me as I laid prone on the ground... and I was having a blast!

I photographed a colony of Caspian Terns along Lake Michigan. These are the largest terns in the world. They live on every continent except Antarctica, but even though they are wide spread there are not very many of these birds and they are a threatened species in Michigan. Their behavior of living in colonies makes them especially susceptible to some threats. A single storm can wipe out almost all of the nests in a colony and marauding predators have been know to kill all the young in a colony in a single night. This particular colony is fairly new and seems to be doing well.

These birds can be lots of fun to watch, with something always going on somewhere in the colony. I watched as males flew out into the surf to catch fish to present to their chosen female. These birds are notorious thieves though, and when the males returned to the edge of the colony other terns would chase them around, trying to take the food out of their mouths. In the second photo you can see a male that had to resort to handing off food to it's mate in mid air.

These birds are sleek looking and acrobatic. It's incredible to see them and the gulls diving into the surf and popping back up with a fish in their bills.

April 29, 2004

Master of Camouflage