Protecting the Chicks

 

Tern chick July 4 5205

Image: Arctic Tern chick chirps for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 410 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The more time I spend photographing the animal kingdom, the more respect I gain for all the creatures trying to survive and raise young.  The Arctic Terns showed an amazing and aggressive dedication to their young, even against threats as big as humans.  Inner Farne Island was a microhabitat that suited their breeding and nesting needs.  Unfortunately, their nesting location was along the docks and boardwalk where visitors disembark from the boats.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we had to wear hats to avoid the terns drawing blood on the top of our heads when they poked us as we walked by.  I tried walking as slow as possible and watched out for chicks along the boardwalk.  Even that wasn’t enough to allow me to get by unscathed.  :-).

Tern chick July 6 6860

Image: Arctic Tern chick hiding, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The chicks hid in the bushes and on the sandy shore among the flowers and were all different ages.  Most of them were chirping and calling out to their parents to fill their hungry bellies.

Tern chick July 6 6661

Image: Arctic Tern chick chirping for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

As shown in my previous post, one parent was typically off catching fish while the other guarded the nest, attacking the heads of humans or other fending off other birds. Some terns chicks were quite eager for food and even pecked at the parent.

Tern chicks with parent July 6 6693

Image: Arctic Tern chicks chirping for food, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 440 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

For a short video of this, please click below.  You can hear the chirping and see the interaction between one parent tern and its chick.  The wire fencing was put along the boardwalk by the National Trust to help keep chicks off the boardwalk and protect them.  When the chicks were old enough, this barrier wasn’t enough, and consequently, we walked around several on the boardwalk while waiting for the peck from above.

I enjoyed observing some of the older chicks as well as the cute fluffy newborns since the older chicks were beginning to discover their wings.  At times, they couldn’t figure out how to get their wings to function, which we can all relate to somedays.  🙂

Tern chick July 6 6647

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Another chick was having more success, thankfully, since it was on top of a rock and had further to fall than the one practicing on the sand.

Tern chick July 6 6759

 

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

As I watched this little one, I could see the determination and concentration as it prepared its wings.

Tern chick July 6 6768

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

It was struggling to figure out how to get some lift but then I saw an actual liftoff of 1-2 inches!  I think I was just as excited as the tern!

Tern chick July 6 6771

Image: Arctic Tern chick learning how to fly, Inner Farne Island, England. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/1250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

It disturbed me initially to see the parent terns stressed out about defending their nests, but the National Trust workers assured us that having some humans on the island warded off larger birds of prey.  Visiting hours on the island were also kept to a minimum each day, as we were only allowed a two hour visit in the afternoon and the island was closed the rest of the day.

 

 

 

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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