July 10, 2015
Magnificent Royal Terns
- as seen by -William G. Conway
The tiny chick, only half a handful of down, looked embarrassed. The chick’s parent, a royal tern (Sterna maxima) with a four-foot wingspread, had returned with a swish to deliver a tiny fish— but the chick had strayed — and was corrected (it does seem chagrined, doesn’t it?)
I snapped the picture. How did I get so close?
Crouched in a walking blind — a box made of burlap with slits for my camera but no floor so that my feet stuck out and I could shuffle along — I was immediately accepted by the big colony of terns and gulls. It was a perfect way to study the magnificent royal terns at the colony on Punta Ninfas in Patagonia where the ability of chicks and parents to identify each other at extraordinary distances, despite the clamor and crowding of the colony, captured my attention. Estimating recognition distances, I noted several inbound parents in the air more than 150 feet away that found their chicks.
In the mean time, rapidly feeling at home with my blind, some colony birds sat atop it, thus teaching me two additional things: a burlap roof is not liquid proof and gull droppings are hot!
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Nikon N90s, 400mm lens
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