Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smooth Approach

Smooth Approach
Least Tern
June 2008
Wiggins Pass, FL

“You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.”
--Henry David Thoreau

I will readily admit that I have fallen in love these past several weeks. I'm quite unabashed about it, in fact.

For a few months now, a large flock of least terns have been mating, nesting, fledging and teaching their young how to fly at one of my favorite local just-after-dawn-and-low-tide birding spots.

It's been quite a spectacle this year. For the first time, Delnor-Wiggins State Park has taken an avid interest in attracting them, roping off a big hunk of the upper reaches of the beach where I typically pull the kayak out of the water for a break. Even more interesting, they invested in some least tern decoys, these totally wacked and weird painted wooden things that, strangely enough, seem to do the trick. Just the other day, I watched an adult and a fledgling actually rub up against some of the decoys. Who says love isn't blind?

So it's been quite grand, all this activity. Clouds of terns swarming above me as I float on top of roiling bait is mesmerizing. I've watched adults pair bond, mate and sit on nests. I've seen their young do a toddler's walk down to the water line for the first time, then, the next day, take wing. As a good friend from Alaska would say, "It's all good."

I float for hours along the back side of one of the adult's favorite oyster bars, captivated by landings and takeoffs, tiny fish speared by pointed beaks. Power boaters pass by me and stare. Ha! Crazy woman in the yellow kayak with the camera again, photographing what?? These birds are tiny and from a distance, the oyster bar looks empty. Hours later, they pass by again and I'm still there.

I float and watch and feel enchanted. I think about their near extinction in the early 1900's because ladies liked to wear them (whole) in their hats. I watch their skill and confidence in flight; wings moving so fast, they're simply a blur.

Yes, it seems I've fallen in love. Dozens of hours and hundreds of shutter actuations later, I'm pretty sure they love me back.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400mm VR

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