Forster’s Tern In A Setting I Like

Blue sky backgrounds for birds in flight are ok but I grow tired of them and prefer something more interesting and challenging.


1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Yesterday morning at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I photographed this Forster’s Tern soon after it rose from the water after diving for a fish. This species is an excellent “fisherbird” and much more often than not they catch a fish but this time it came up empty. The bird is sharp, I really like the wing position, I have a good angle on the bird in nice light, I nailed the exposure and there’s a catch light in the eye (which can be difficult to get on terns because of those photon-sucking blacks around the eye).

I could have all those things with the bird against a sky background but what makes this image stand out for me is the setting – dark green water reflecting the colors of the vegetation in the upper background. The bird stands out here much better than it would against sky (or even bright water) and we get a strong sense of habit to boot.

True, the vegetation in the upper background might be too busy for some tastes but for me the bird stands out so well it doesn’t distract my eye. The tern could be larger in the frame but I think this much habitat contributes to the image so I like it as is.



  • Yup, I’m still worrying about you folks in Florida. If any of my Sunshine State (an ironic moniker at the moment) readers care to share how you’re faring please feel free to do so in a comment.
  • We had a brief but very enjoyable visit with blog follower April Olson at the refuge yesterday- it was a welcome change of pace from looking for cooperative birds, often in vain. 
  • I know I’ve posted quite a few tern photos lately but I can only post what I shoot…


21 comments to Forster’s Tern In A Setting I Like

  • Laura Culley

    Beautiful, just beautiful (insert the usual string of ridiculously redundant superlatives here). Like many others, I really like the background. I’m a big fan of natural settings, and while clean blue backgrounds are wonderful, so are backgrounds like this. I guess it comes down to I’m easily amused, but you knew that!
    I’ve been organizing the house in preparation for visiting friends in early October. And since it takes me weeks or months to get stuff done that would take most people hours or maybe days, some days I just have to be missing in action. It’s either a productive day or a big payback day(s). Sigh!
    The track of Irma was the worst case scenario for Florida. I’ve been through one, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, while living in Clear Lake City (far south Houston with annexation) where we got a direct hit. It spun up to a low-level Category 5 before it made landfall and weakened to a high-level Category 4 by the time it made a direct hit over us. Sitting in a boarded-up house with a big hurricane was the ONLY time I’ve ever felt claustrophobic in my life! It was NOT a good time, and if I’m ever confronted with another hurricane, I’ll gather up the birds and dogs EARLY and hang out in Kansas for a while! Or maybe Nebraska!

  • Really interesting shot, Ron! A very strong and compelling background that calls for my attention, but that beautiful light on the tern’s right foot keeps bringing me back to the bird.
    I have a real emotional response to this image. It feels like I’m right there!
    That was fun!

  • April Olson

    I was looking forward to see what you and Mia would post from Sunday when we met at the refuge. You had nice terns, egrets, herons and grebes all in the area where I fist saw your truck. I thought the light was beautiful, blue sky and the fall colors and dark greens were all a lovely palate for the day.I was stunned by he number of American White Pelicans at the refuge Sunday. I don’t think I have ever seen so many at one time.

    It’s always fun to run into you and Mia in the field!

    • We had a fair number of birds but not many of them cooperated, April. And I screwed up a couple of the fairly good chances I did have. Sometimes it just goes that way.

      We enjoyed seeing you again too!

  • Marty K

    I’m with Susan on the 3D effect of the bird on the background. I’m enjoying all the greens in the background and you know how much I like upstretched wings. 🙂

    Here’s hoping that weather and fires calm down for a while.

  • I am very happy to see whatever you come up with. As I scroll up and down your images I see things I would never see in the field (even if I were lucky enough to be in your area).
    Love the background to this stunning image too.

  • Lee Herbst

    I’m in Ocala, FL. Power has been out since 10PM Eastern. We have a lot of trees down around town and most are without power. I am part of the damage assessment team for the county and we currently have 50 homes destroyed or damaged – that number will go up as we have just started the assessment. As far as I know, no fatalities in our county, hopefully it remains that way. Tropical force winds continue and trees and large limbs are still falling.

    • Thanks very much for that report, Lee.

      Apologies for taking so long to approve your comment but now that it’s done I’ll no longer have to approve any comments you might make.

      • Lee Herbst

        An update. Power has been restored to about half of our residents. Most should have power back by Sunday, but some areas were hit so hard that it may take another week. Clean up is progressing and a bit of normality has returned as stores and businesses reopen. Most schools are still closed (expected to be reopened Monday) and a 10PM curfew is still in effect and gas is still difficult to get. Also, at this time, the number of homes damaged or destroyed has risen to nearly 200 and more reports are coming in daily. Overall, we are all very thankful it wasn’t worse and our concerns lie with our neighbors to the south, especially the keys where there has been much devastation.

  • Susan Stone

    I really like this shot with the interesting, if somewhat busy background. For me the bird stands out very nicely from the background. It reminds me of looking at a 3D picture. I also really like the details of the wing feathers. One of the nice things about seeing photographs of birds is that you get details that you would never see while watching them in flight

  • Patty Chadwick

    You can’t post too many shots of the same beautiful bird, since each shot is different, welcomed and enjoyed by the viewer. Just as I enjoy seeiing a particular bird each time I get the opportunity, seeing beautiful images of birds like this tern, is a pleasure no matter how msny pictures you post of them. For example, I can never get tited of seeing images of sage grouse, sage thrashers, magpies, great blue herons, barn owls, snowy egrets, mountain blue birds,hummers, kestrels, golden eagles, gyr falcons, great horned and barn owls………..etc.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful flight shot Ron!


  • Judy Gusick

    The background really does make this shot rather than blue sky, Ron – does put the bird in context. 🙂 Sure hope those in Florida or with family/friends there fared well yesterday. Sounds like it could have been a LOT worse, but then they’re reporting in the large population areas so one doesn’t necessarily get “the rest of the story”