Category Archives: Shore Birds

Bonaparte’s Gull vs Forster’s Tern

The Bonaparte’s Gull and Forster’s Tern look a lot alike and I always have to check a reference when I see either. I happened to capture one of each in similar poses during my recent beach visit.

Bonaparte’s Gull Feeding
Bonaparte’s Gull Feeding

The gull is slightly larger, but when you see them zooming along above the ocean waves that is hard to tell.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

Bonaparte’s Gull In Surf

Watching Bonaparte’s Gulls feed in the ocean surf it was amazing to see how well they timed the waves, lifting out of the water to avoid a crash.

Bonaparte’s Gull in Surf
Bonaparte’s Gull in Surf

Or just bobbing along and riding the crest of a wave.

Bonaparte’s Gull in Surf
Bonaparte’s Gull Behind Breaking Wave

Sometimes they jump right into the breaking wave, perhaps the fish they want to eat are churned up there. These images capture the gull plus some of the mesmerizing water movement.

Bonaparte’s Gull in Surf
Bonaparte’s Gull in Surf

Forster’s Tern

After watching the relatively sedate Bonaparte’s Gulls Feeding at the beach a Forster’s Tern came along and showed off some different flying skills.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

It was all about speed.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

Hover, dive and repeat.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

With the rolling waves and lack of contrast I didn’t get a full splash down image.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

Yes, they are fast!

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

In between stronger gusts of wind the tern hovered higher over the water as he looked for food.

Forster's Tern Fishing
Forster’s Tern Fishing

Bonaparte’s Gulls Feeding

There is not much contrast in these images of a pair of Bonaparte’s Gulls feeding in the ocean surf. The day was dull and the birds coloration mostly matches the water, with only their black wing-tips and orange feet standing out.

Bonaparte's Gull Pair Feeding
Bonaparte’s Gull Pair Feeding

However, they were fun to watch and gulls are great practice for in-flight bird photography due to their relatively slow speed and predictability.

Bonaparte's Gull Pair Feeding
Bonaparte’s Gull Pair Feeding

It was also windy and this pair was expending a tremendous amount of energy for what was small food. Whatever they were catching they quickly swallowed without me seeing it.

Bonaparte's Gull Pair Feeding
Bonaparte’s Gull Pair Feeding

They dropped in and lifted out of the water with ease and flew in tandem as they moved up the beach.

Bonaparte's Gull Pair Feeding
Bonaparte’s Gull Pair Feeding

Myrtle Beach State Park, SC,  3/17/2019

American Avocets

I watched a group of American Avocets milling around in a shallow pond, some wading and some flying in small hops following whatever they were feeding on.

American Avocets American Avocets

Two did fly by fairly close to me and I hoped they would land for a close up shot, but they kept right on going to the other side of the pond.

American Avocets in Flight American Avocets in Flight

Another group landed a bit closer, then waded out of view.

American Avocets in Flight American Avocets in Flight

Taken 2/25/2019

Forster’s Tern

I’ve watched several Forster’s Terns the last few times I’ve been to the rice field impoundment. They are incredibly acrobatic in flight, twisting and turning, then swooping down to the water to go after small fish.

Forster's Tern
Forster’s Tern

They are quite striking birds, even in non-breeding plumage. When they’ve make the turn and loop back for another run at the pond is the best opportunity to photograph them.

Forster's Tern
Forster’s Tern

And did I mention they are fast? This is the best I got this day for a dive.

Forster's Tern
Forster’s Tern

If they pick up a small fish with their feet they quickly pass it to their mouth and down the hatch it goes.

Forster's Tern
Forster’s Tern