Forster’s Tern

Whenever I watch terns in flight I’m struck by their grace, beauty and incredible maneuverability as they cruise over the water surface hunting for small fish.  Their agility in the air, their black and white colors (which make for a difficult exposure) and the black on black eye which means it’s very difficult to get a catch light – all  make them a daunting flight subject for the photographer.  But even if you don’t get the shot you’re after you’ve still had the pleasure of watching these masters of flight perform their aerial magic.


Forster's Tern 8882b ron dudley

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light

Yesterday morning I found several Forster’s Terns fishing a pond at Farmington Bay and couldn’t resist attempting a few shots.  Out of 68 images this is the only one I’ll keep.  I liked the raised left wing, the flared and angled tail, the color gradient in the watery background and that hard to get catch light.

Perhaps one day I’ll catch one coming out of the water with a fish.  I have one shot like that but naturally I clipped a wing…


9 comments to Forster’s Tern

  • Fantastic image, Ron!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Ron-such a great shot–you deserve to be just as lucky again. I think one good tern deserves another…

  • Charlotte Norton

    What a sensational shot Ron!

  • Tanja

    Nice shot Ron. Was in California for a week got to go bird watching. Watched some least terns flying and fishing near the docks @ san diego bay. Also amazed at their ability and swiftness while flying and diving. Gave up trying for pic after 3 tries. Although now that we are back, in the pond I watch in Saratoga springs, south of you, there are now some avocets and killdeer nesting. Thanks to your blog about avocet mating and nesting activity, I realized I was witness to a pair of avocets choosing a nest site. They followed each other a bit, she lowered her head , ran and he followed. They then crossed beaks and both took turns stirring the ground under their feet. Then she settled down on the ground and started wiggling her feet and fluffing her wings to create a divot in the ground. She did this at least 3 times. Then other avocets came around and they flew off. Hopefully when I go back in a few days there will be another pair nesting. Thx. I really enjoy your blog.

  • Sharon Constant

    This is so beautiful. Being able to get such a wonderful photo of one of these birds just underscores your incredible skill and talent.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Beautiful shot..image/colors are so crisp and elegant

  • What an incredible looking bird. The colour on those feet is incredible. And yes, a stunning shot which is quite definitely a keeper.

    • Agree about the feet, Elephant’s Child. In winter adults and immature birds they’re a much duller red-brown but breeding adults have intense orange or orange-red feet and legs.