Monday, May 16, 2011

Florida Birding; May 5th, Part 1

May 5th was my first morning in Pensacola Beach, Florida, and my first extensive birding in the area. I started very early in the morning, and walked out to the entrance station for the Ft. Pitkins Park section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There was a stiff breeze at my back as I headed out, and with sunrise and my about face, it strengthened into a full-on blow. Even so the birding was surprisingly good. I found myself in the midst of a Least Tern breeding colony coming to life with the increasing light.

From some after the fact reading I have learned that Least Terns have a diet that consists almost entirely of small 'baitfish' caught in the shallows near their colonies. Part of their mating ritual involves the giving of food to a prospective partner. At the time I wasn't sure if the interactions were sharing or thievery, but it seems likely that those exchanges were between pairs.

It was clear that the food source was small fish though, and they seemed to be returning frequently with fresh catches.

Cool birds though, I spent a few afternoons on the beach trying to capture their entertaining dives in still images - but relaxation and general difficulty capturing birds in high speed flight made that a lost cause. So instead an early morning shot of a bird cruising.

While Least Terns were by far the most numerous, there were a handful of other terns mixed in. They were Gull-billed Terns, which were just a bit larger in size, but had notably thicker black bills by comparison.

Stay tuned, more to come shortly from my images on the 5th, and my list of images to process from the 6th is daunting. Plenty to keep me busy through and beyond the CFO convention trip this weekend.

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