Least Terns and chicks coping with a thunderstorm

Along the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the nest of Least Terns is merely a small indentation in the sand. How do the terns cope with the wind and rain during the thunderstorms that are common occurrences during their three week incubation period? This blog presents 11 images acquired during an early morning thunderstorm in June of 2010. All images are of the same nest and the same terns. 

Least Terns thunderstorm-1.jpg

5:57:20 AM, June 22, 2010. Shortly after sunrise (note long shadow). Least Tern covering two chicks in a nest.  

Least Terns thunderstorm-2.jpg

6:14:22 AM - Least Tern on a nest during a brief slack period in a thunderstorm. To protect my camera and lens, I did not lower the window of my automobile to photograph the terns during periods of heavy rain. The wind has blown sand up around the bird and in some shots in this series, the eye is covered with sand.

6:23:15 AM - During this calm period, the other adult appears with a minnow and gives it to one of the chicks.

6:23:18 AM - Least Tern chick consuming the minnow.

6:23:28 AM - Wind and rain resume. Adult protecting the smallest chick while the chick that consumed the minnow returns to the nest.

6:23:37 AM. The adult is still protecting the smaller chick. The other chick uses the adult as a shield from the wind.

6:23:45 AM

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6:23:51 AM

6:56:02 AM - Thunderstorm has passed over the area. The task of feeding the chicks resumes.

6:56:04 AM

6:59:39 AM - Back to normal life on the beach.

David Sparks

I retired in 2005 after 40 years of research and teaching at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (24 years), the University of Pennsylvania (8 years) and the Baylor College of Medicine (8 years). Photography is my retirement hobby.

Nature photography, especially bird photography, combines a number of things that I really enjoy: bird-watching, being outdoors, photography, travel, messing about with computers, and learning new skills and concepts.  I now spend much of my time engaged in these activities.

David Sibley in the preface to The Sibley Guide to Birds wrote "Birds are beautiful, in spectacular as well as subtle ways; their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature."  My goal is to acquire images that capture the beauty and uniqueness of selected species as well as images that highlight the engaging behaviors the birds exhibit.