Tern Turndowns at the Texas City Dike

Tern Turndowns at the Texas City Dike

April 19, 2018 ~ We made a trip to Texas City Dike this past Wednesday specifically to see the tern action. This is the time of year the males court the females by bringing fish. The females choose a suitor based on some mysterious methodology and copulation generally follows. Terns don’t build nests but lay eggs in a scrape on the ground. They nest in colonies on barrier islands and usually the eggs hatch in synchrony with near-by nesting pairs. This enables the chicks to all congregate together for safety as their parents are away hunting food. I have written about terns several times before: A Tale of Three Fishes, It is the Season, and Texas City Dike Report.

For this trip we were traveling light; Bill Maroldo and I only took our Nikkor 500 PF f/5.6 lenses, lots of batteries and extra cards. We were all psyched up for getting some tern porn to share with you.

Look! I brought you a present!
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

Down by the breakers we found a lot of terns. We had brought our crates, so we edged close to the birds. It was mostly overcast but quite windy. This is a nice Royal Tern with a fat fish. Usually we see them bringing Glass Minnows, but maybe they aren’t easy to find this time of year. Both birds have full black caps and bright orange bills signifying breeding colors.

But look… it is a NICE plump fish!
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

He moves a bit closer with his fish … and she looks away.

Maybe you didn’t see the YUGE fish I have for you up close…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

He moves around her and offers the fish. She did lower her body some, we were hopeful she would be impressed with his offering.

I saw the danged fish! Now SCRAM!
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

But alas… it was not to be. The fish was wrong, the suitor was wrong or is it just too early in the year?

Hey girl… I haz a nice fishee…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250

We saw it with Sandwich Terns as well. Time and again a male brought a fish and the female rebuffed his offering. This male still needs a bit of black plumage on his cap, but look at that faint pink blush on his chest! He flew on off with his little fish.

We did not see a single female take the offered fish.

Oh, I am supposed to give you the fish while I do this? Are you sure?
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250

There was a bit of activity going on here and there, but I swearz it was just … practice. Several times we saw males with fish stand on the back of the females, but I have watched this year after year and nothing serious happened. There was no … conclusion to the efforts.

Maybe they are all new at this.

Beautiful pair of Royal Terns..
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/7.1 ISO 1250

We really had high hopes for this pair. She has her wings lowered, they both have full black caps and the fish looks like the right kind. But noooooo… she wandered off leaving him looking rejected.

Black Skimmer whizzes by…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

Lots of Black Skimmers around. It was probably too windy for much skimming but they periodically spooked and flew up, circled around and came back to land very near where they had been before. I love the Nikkor 500 PF f/5.6 for BIF shots. It is so easy to maneuver at 3.2 lbs. The lenses are STILL hard to come by; best strategy is to give Houston Camera Exchange a $500 deposit and get on their waiting list. Most folks I know have gotten one in about two months. B&H seems hopeless at this time and Amazon just stopped taking orders. We checked the serial numbers on our two and there were 721 numbers between the end of January and end of March deliveries. That is not very many units to spread around.

The guys said you would like this… what did I do wrong?
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1000

More turndowns and failed attempts. I guess it is just too early in the year. We did see Laughing Gulls getting it on; they are usually the first to mate. Sigh… I guess we will just HAVE to go back again in a few weeks.

Incoming Brown Pelican with nice breeding colors…
Nikon D850 with Nikkor 500 f/5.6 PF VR ~ 1/2000 sec f/6.3 ISO 1250

We did see some nice Brown Pelicans, a Snowy and a few Great Blue Herons. The beaches look nice; they have been doing some work and even made some concrete pads around the covered picnic tables. Remember they start charging $5 on weekends at the end of March and $10 on Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

And a little personal note: Maybe you have noticed the scarcity of adventure reporting and blog postings over the last few months. We have both had some health issues which have restricted us to local parks and shorter outings, but that didn’t completely stop us from going out. If you recall, I did get stuck in the mud and Bill had to rescue me so we have not been house-bound!

Mine turned out to be a false alarm from over-zealous imaging interpretations which just underlines the need for second and sometimes third opinions. But the accompanying blood work did uncover a serious need for dietary changes. Good-bye sugar and a lot of other fun stuff to … stuff with. I can say that in a few short weeks I have lost weight and actually feel better for the change. My acid-reflux problems seem to have subsided as well.

Bill’s was much more serious with emergency surgery for diverticulitis at the end of November and additional procedures in late March. He spent a total of 21 days in the hospital for the two surgeries. We did get out some in between but he was limited in using the heavier lenses. Well, he did use them but I hollered a lot. His backordered Nikkor 500 PF f/5.6 came in the day after the second surgery, thank goodness. He had been using mine quite a bit since it is so light-weight and even my 500 f/4 as it is lighter than his preferred 600 f/4. He is gaining strength and recovering but it will take a while.

We are fine; getting old just brings a lot of challenges. You keep going and make adjustments. And make the most of every opportunity to get out and chase the birds. How has Spring Migration been for you? We got one day in at Quintana but haven’t gotten back to High Island since the babies hatched. Let me know in the comments below.

Resoft Park Redux

Resoft Park Redux

Raptor Show and Owlets at Brazos Bend

Raptor Show and Owlets at Brazos Bend