Forster’s Terns at Malheur

After I cut my early summer trip to Malheur short because of the sub-freezing night temperatures, I promised myself I would return when the temperatures warmed up enough that I could car camp. I figured by mid-June that it should be toasty and dry in the Eastern Oregon high desert. Turns out I was wrong, once again. I brought rain, cool temperatures, and high winds with me from the Puget Sound, making me question whether I’d made the right decision in not returning to Seabeck instead.

The winds were so strong when I arrived around 4 PM that birding was barely mediocre as most birds were hunkered down avoiding the high winds. Luckily, that wasn’t true of all birds, as these Forster’s Terns seemed to enjoy riding the high winds, stopping mid-air and diving for the fish below.

Forster's Tern

I often see them in the winter in the Puget Sound area but seldom manage to get as close as I did in Malheur. I loved the challenge of photographing these birds in flight because you only got a second or two as they hovered before diving.

I think the high winds actually made photographing them easier because they seemed to almost stall in the wind just before diving.

Forster's Tern

This is the first time I’ve ever managed to actually see the tail feathers, which seemed to be built for speed.

Forster's Tern

Unfortunately, I’m afraid it would require someone with considerably faster reflexes than me to manage to get a shot of them actually diving into the water and catching a fish, though I had several opportunities to do so.

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