Migration at Fort de Soto Part 2

In my last post I wrote about the migratory songbirds that had stopped by Fort de Soto one afternoon in April. After a while, Jess and I decided to move on to the shorebirds and see what we could find on the beach. I had hoped to find some Royal Terns and photograph their courtship rituals, but there wasn’t any royalty on the beach that afternoon. But we did find some Laughing Gulls, Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Willets, Dowitchers, a Marbled Godwit and an American Oystercatcher. So since the royals were off on another beach, we made the best with what was available. And the locals didn’t disappoint.

First we had some fun photographing Laughing Gulls as they were taking their evening bath. Some consider gulls to be junk birds because there are so many of them and you generally trip over them whenever you are at the beach. And I will admit that more than one gull has wandered into my composition and prevented me from getting a nice clean shot of another subject. But still, gulls can be a lot of fun to photograph too.

Anytime a bird is bathing, they will always give some sort of wing flap during or immediately after the bath. Gulls are no exception, so I waited patiently for this gull to give me a nice wing flap. I really liked the water droplets coming off the feathers as he extended his wings. Click the images to view larger, especially the first one so you can see the water droplets.

Laughing Gull Wing Flap - Fort de Soto
Laughing Gull Wing Flap

Not to be outdone, a Black Skimmer gave me a wing flap as well and created a nice angelic look. Skimmers can be very difficult to photograph bathing since they have 44 inch wingspan. I usually find myself too close to the bird and cut off a portion of the wings when they are extended. But not this day!

Black Skimmer Wing Flap - Fort de Soto
Black Skimmer Wing Flap

Before long, we heard the sounds of a pair of Laughing Gulls doing their courtship ritual. In this photo, the male is on the left and the female is inspecting his dental work. Actually, the female is expecting the male to cough up a fish which will prove to the female that the male will be a good provider for the chicks. If the male produces a sizable offering to the female, she will let him mate with her.

Dental Inspection - Fort de Soto
Dental Inspection

Obviously the offering was sufficient.

Yahoo!  Fort de Soto
Yahoo!

The species survival is assured.

Piggyback Ride - Fort de Soto
Piggyback Ride

This Willet nearly gave me a perfect wing flap. If only he had turned a bit more to his left.

Willet Wing Flap - Fort de Soto
Willet Wing Flap

My favorite sequence of the afternoon was with a pair of Least Terns going through their courtship rituals. The female waits on the beach while the male brings her a fish to show his ability to provide for the young. Generally if the female accepts the offering, the birds will mate. However on this day, there was only foreplay. Still I was stoked to get this shot of the male bringing in a fish for his lady.

Least Tern Fish Exchange - Fort de Soto
Least Tern Fish Exchange

The setting sun cast some nice warm light on this Marbled Godwit.

Marbled Godwit - Fort de Soto
Marbled Godwit

One of my favorite birds is the American Oystercatcher. How kind of this one to fly in and spend a few minutes in the lagoon right at sunset.

American Oystercatcher - Fort de Soto
American Oystercatcher

It is said that your worst day of photography is better than your best day at work. I agree with that philosophy and at over 1000 images taken in this one afternoon, I will be enjoying this day for quite some time to come.