The activity is picking up on the beaches along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Human beach visitation is picking up, but so is the nesting/chick raising activity. There are several spots staked out where least terns are currently nesting – some pairs still on eggs and others with cute little fuzzy chicks waiting to be fed. With a long lens and a little time spent patiently sitting outside the “Please Do Not Disturb” area, the chances of getting a shot of an adult bringing back a pogie (menhaden) or similar small fish to feed the chicks is pretty good.
I returned to this same area the next day for more shots, and the tracks in the sand told a story about a group of 6 to 8 people and one dog trampling right between two of the stay out signs and running through part of the nesting colony. AAAACCCHH! Thankfully, the local Audubon Society will be stationing educational docents with spotting scopes near some of the colonies that are near high human traffic areas soon.
While I am on my soapbox, I thought I’d share another tern shot from that day – a shot of a tern sitting on the edge of the Mississippi sound surrounded by lots of trash/litter/detritus, much of it plastic. I’ve not seen any tar balls/oil clumps from the British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill (though I have seen several teams looking for/picking up said oily debris), but I HAVE seen far, far too much thoughtless plastic, glass, & metal discarded by beach visitors & boaters. It would be SO, SO easy to get shots of almost every one of our beach birds posing with trash that it isn’t even funny. Far too often, I’ve not taken a shot because of trash in the frame. This time, I realized that the amount of trash in the frame carried an important message about how some humans mistreat our environment and the animals that we share it with.
The good news is that after an absence of over 20 years from living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the local least tern populations seem higher. When I was here before, surveying nesting shorebirds/seabirds was part of my job. It was a REAL treat back then to see the nesting black skimmers and their chicks on the off-shore spoil islands. It appears that black skimmers are now nesting just off of Highway 90 on the mainland! Another conservation success story!
I thought I’d just mention again that it takes long lenses and patience to shots of these birds in their nesting areas without disturbing them.