Yes, its time for another episode of Crab Wars!
Each year when I visit the least tern colony on the Atlantic Coast I usually get to see a couple of battles between the nesting least terns and the ghost crabs that inhabit the beach sand. The least terns are only in town for the summer, but the ghost crabs live on the beach all year long. The least terns need the beach to lay their eggs and raise their chicks, so they defend their colony from all intruders, including those who inhabit the very sand that they have scraped their nest out of. Meanwhile, the ghost crabs are hungry and are naturally attracted to all the activity in the colony as the chicks tend to leave some crumbs for the crabs to enjoy. The least terns don’t give up their territory very easily and neither do the ghost crabs. So lets check in with this year’s episode of Crab Wars. Click the images to view larger.
A few years ago I was fortunate to create an image of a least tern and a ghost crab battling each other for real estate. I really liked the image and so did the editors at Digital Photography magazine as they selected this image as their first place winner in their My Best Shot contest that year.
Over the next few years, the tern colony didn’t do as well and I didn’t make as many visits. This summer the colony has 181 nests (no, I didn’t count them … the bird steward volunteered that information) and there is no shortage of opportunities. The chicks haven’t been all that cooperative this year, but the crab wars have been quite entertaining. The skirmishes start off quite simple with the least terns trying to ward off the crabs.
Sometimes the terns will get right in the face of the crabs.
Occasionally neighbors will join in to ward off the intruder.
If the crab doesn’t move along, things begin to get animated.
As a defensive measure, the crab will stand up on his legs to frighten the terns.
But as with most fights, someone is bound to get hurt. It’s all fun until someone pokes an eye out … or grabs a crab claw.
Eventually both participants retreat to their own corner, only to come out of to fight again.
I’m looking forward to returning for more interesting encounters.