Stopped for a Whimbrel and found Least Terns

June 12, 2023

I see something interesting each time I visit tidal creeks near my home.  On this day the tide was low. I positioned myself on one end of a sand/mud bar with the hope of photographing a Whimbrel that was hunting fiddler crabs.  As I lay flat on the mud with my camera resting on a boat cushion, a Whimbrel was hunting about 20 yards away.  The Whimbrel would crouch and run, then probe the mud. Fiddler crabs quickly retreated to their burrows. 

At least 30 minutes passed, maybe more, when I heard the distinctive squeaky voice of a Least Tern.  The small seabird landed about 30' away.  And then came another carrying a fish, which it fed to the tern standing in front of me.  The fish exchange was very quick; the bird's feet barely touched the mud before it flew off. A few minutes later it returned with another fish. Three fish were delivered and the adult being fed (almost certainly a female) consumed all. After the third fish, the male did not fly off. It was a few feet away from their female and began to display (below). These behaviors are part of courtship.   

As for the photo: by lying flat on the mud and being careful to move slowly and only as much as needed to frame the photo, the birds did not seem to mind that I was there. Also, I used a 600mm telephoto lens which further enabled me to keep a safe distance from the terns.

I lost sight of the Whimbrel. The terns were a more interesting subject to photograph.


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