Another One that Got Away

Photographing birds reminds me of salmon fishing, without the accompanying sea sickness, thankfully. Both require considerable sitting and waiting, but more than compensate for that by getting you out in nature, far removed from the chaos of the city. Both require knowledge of nature, particularly of the species you’re seeking, though sheer luck sometimes trumps such knowledge. A great shot, like your first big fish, can really get you hooked. And once you know you’re capable of great things, you want to repeat the thrill of your first success.

There wasn’t much happening at Theler Wetlands Friday, so when I saw a Common Tern approaching the mouth of the river I decided to wait to see what kind of pictures I could get of it. I caught my first shot as he flew by:


I think it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to a tern, close enough I could see the bands on his legs (especially when the picture is seen full size). Of course, he continued up river, but I knew from experience that if I waited five or ten minutes he would be coming back down the river.

As he came back, he seemed to hover in one place. When he began to fold his wings,

Tern Beginning Dive

I knew he would dive directly into the water. Of course, he dove so quickly that the shots I took of him, were blurred, but I waited for him to emerge from the water, knowing he would continue down the river:

Tern Emerging from Water

I also knew that since he’d failed to catch fish on this run the odds were good he would make another run.

It wasn’t too long before I managed to get this shot of him with a fish in his mouth.

Tern with Fish in Mouth

Unfortunately, I missed the final shot in this sequence when a seagull came flying out of nowhere and tried to harass the tern into dropping the fish. Unfortunately, it happened so fast and they were so close to me that I couldn’t pan fast enough and keep them centered enough to maintain focus.

Tern being chased by Gull

This is the big one that got away, but at least I have blurry evidence that a great shot was just a heartbeat away. Damn, I need a bigger net!