The Terns of the Farnes

 

Tern flying July 3 1575

Image: Arctic Tern flying around its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

As we made our way up the docks from the boat to Inner Farne Island, we came across nesting Arctic Terns on both sides of the boardwalk. The adults were very protective of their chicks and we had to wear a hat to protect our heads as they could draw blood when they pecked the top of our heads as we walked by.  I was one of the lucky few who had a tern land on her head and stay there for several minutes.  :-).

Tern flying July 6 5236

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Since it was bright and sunny almost every day on this island, I worked a lot on backlit shots of these birds.  Each day presented with slightly different conditions, even subtle changes in the color of the sky and the brightness of the sun.  In the image above, there was more haze in the sky but in the image below, the sky had a deeper blue that allowed the feathers to glow more.

Tern flying July 6 5338

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The terns had beautiful symmetry when they were hovering and preparing to land. When I stood in the right location, I could capture this with the camera.  I was able to lighten the shadows on the frontside of the tern to allow me to salvage the image despite the harsh light.

Tern flying July 3 0632

Image: Arctic Tern hovering over its nest.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Many of the Arctic Terns were bringing back little fish or sand eels from the sea to feed their chicks.  They often flew in large circles around the nest until they determined the right time to land and feed the chicks.

 

Tern flying with fish July 5 2968

Image: Arctic Tern flying to its nest with a fish.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 220 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 1000, hand-held.

There was also a colony of Sandwich Terns living on the island in an area separate from the Arctic Terns.  They were a bit harder to catch on the camera due to their speed and agility.  The black color of their beak was one of the distinguishing features that allowed me to spot them right away versus the red-orange beak of the Arctic Tern.

Tern flying July 5 1628

Image: Sandwich Tern flying to its nest with a fish.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 320 mm, f/6.3, 1/5000 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Each day always brought new opportunities for photography.  I enjoyed going back to the same location multiple times since it allowed us more opportunities to catch aspects of the birds’ lives.  Besides watching the terns bring food to their chicks, one afternoon we had the nice surprise of watching the Arctic and Sandwich Terns bathe from the boat.

Terns bathing July 7 1522

Image: 3 Arctic Terns and 1 Sandwich Tern bathing.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 390 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

After their baths, the flew out of the water, shaking to fluff their feathers.  Sometimes they dipped down into the water once again, as the one below prepares for a second landing.

Tern flying over water July 7 1418

Image: Arctic Tern flying after a bath.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

After their bath, they took off again back to their nests or on another journey.

Tern flying over water July 7 1453

Image: Arctic Tern flying after a bath.  Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held from boat.

 

 

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

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