It’s Their Tern

Greetings everyone!  First off, our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by the weather events in Texas.  Kind of shocking when you think it wasn’t too many months ago Linda and I were vacationing down in South Padre Island.  Every time I see someone walking in waist high water down there, all I can think of is the huge alligators we encountered while birding down there.  Hope to god the rain and flooding doesn’t bring those beasts up into the communities.  In no way glossing over the human impact that has resulted, but as a birder, it will be interesting to see how the birds handle this change in environment.  The SPI area was such a wonderful birding location it will be disappointing if that element doesn’t recover right alongside the lives and other wildlife already experiencing tragic displacement.  We will keep an eye on how things are going there.

For now, thought I would go with the following for today’s featured post:
Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

That dark and mysterious creature is referred to as a Black Tern.  This is not a new bird to the blog having first appeared back in July 2015 (link here).  If you recall, that encounter with the black arts took place at Goose Lake.  For the record, that was my first encounter with this bird having made my way up there thanks to an IBET post followed by a recommendation from my brother Ron who had made his way down there.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this acrobatic sky hunter.

Since then, Ron and I also had the opportunity to shoot this species at Chain O’ Lakes near their boat docks.  We had a great time trying to track a Black Tern that was busy hunting the waters in the area.  It was also good practice for me trying to keep the heavy Beast on target as it rocketed past us.  I have not processed those pictures yet – I know I know, but hey, you have to appreciate the fact that most of the posts of late have at least been this year!  That practice put me in a better position when Linda and I had a third encounter with the Black Tern.  This particular set came from Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

Can’t remember if I have posted on that particular spot yet – if not, there are ones in the queue!  On our way back from birding the coastline of Minnesota, we made our way down near Minneapolis.  Did a little surfing and located Sherburne based on a recommendation from a local birding organization.  We had time, it wasn’t that far, which, of course, are all secondary to the fact that it represented a new place to bird – off we went.  I will not dwell on the fact that Linda’s GPS was off that day.  One of the few times we managed to get lost trying to find the entrance to their auto-trail.  Some might be inclined to think this was due to me holding their map upside down.  I on the other hand see no correlation and thus unequivocally dismiss that flawed line of reasoning.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

No worries, we eventually found the entrance.  Being the first time there, we really did not know what to expect.  We stopped off at an early pull off in order to walk a quick prairie trail.  That produced a new +1 (patience, we will get to that as soon as Ron has time to verify the ID).  We got back in the car and proceeded along the road.  As a summary, that refuge HAS IT ALL – prairie, marsh, pond, wooded, field etc.  Their auto tour takes you through every one of those locations and right up to the edge of the marsh/ponds.  If you are a birder, recommend getting your butt up there.  You will not be disappointed.  The Black Tern encounter here was at the first pond we came to.  Also turns out I was able to get another +1 at that spot as well.  +2 and bettered my previous shots of the Tern – definitely worth the time we took to get there (even the extra time due to Linda being lost ha).

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

The initial sighting was at a distance similar to my first encounter at Goose Lake – pretty far away.  Luckily, their hunting patterns moved them closer to the road giving me ample opportunity to get some good shots in the tin.  The first shot was a result of it deciding to fly directly over my head.  My favorite shots has to be the sequence you are in the middle of.  Without seeing the back better, it is difficult to say whether this is a juvenile or a non-breeding adult – my lean is to the latter.  Talk about getting head first into your hunting.  Pretty sure it missed based on the last shot below – still quite the experience and now captured for me to recall whenever I wish.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

I do have to give credit to Linda for being my wingman.  She sat patiently in the RV while I took shot after shot of the Tern and then close to another hour shooting the previously mentioned +1 – you never want to blow the shots of a new bird on the list, so extra time was taken making sure there was at least one in the tin worthy of showing off to my loyal readers.   By then, the Black Terns were hunting the far waters.  Not sure if you have had the pleasure of a Black Tern encounter yet.  If not, one characteristic that has always intrigued me is their ability to suspend themselves in one spot while they zeroed in on their prey.  Very similar to a Harrier or even a Hummingbird if you are familiar with those references.  These particular Terns were only demonstrating this over the far portions of the pond.  Went ahead and snapped a few just to capture the trait.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

One of those traits a photographer loves to see.  The other being the statue like poses from the shore hunters like Great Blue Herons. Looks like I am officially out of shots for this post.  Hope you enjoyed this episode of As the World Terns.  Take it easy everyone and for those dealing with the elements in Texas – STAY SAFE and continue to demonstrate what it is like to actually care for and help your neighbor – the world could use more examples of that right now.

4 thoughts on “It’s Their Tern”

  1. You forgot to mention I spotted a really rare bird on the road as we were running around trying to find the entrance and you totally missed it.


    1. Forgot about that. As I remember it, you spotted the really rare bird. Remained silent until after we had passed it and then noted “Hey did you see that bird with the really long nose and fat body?” This prompted me to ask where with great enthusiasm only to learn that we had passed it already. To your credit, you did turn back to see if we could find it, but not sure why you were laying on the car horn the entire time ha.


  2. Hmm, I wonder how many birds Linda spots first.

    So, again, the first time I was photographing Black Terns (at Goose Lake Natural Area outside Hebron) one of them turned and flew 100 yards directly at me to attack me!! I was busy trying to take shots of something that has the cross-section of a paper airplane while it was coming, ducking as it whirled around my head, and then trying to recover enough to get a shot of it as it flew back towards its original spot.

    Still, I’m a fan of these birds–after all, a lot of birds have attacked me so it’s not personal. They maneuver so fast they are very difficult to take shots of, and I have a just slightly lighter lens than you do…

    These shots are great–thanks for sharing!



  3. Sounds like you are stressing these birds and they are retaliating! In all honesty, bird do hate Ron. I’ve witnessed it. We’ll just be walking along a trail or standing somewhere harmlessly and zoom a disgruntled bird will dive bomb him. Large masses of birds will mass in nearby trees chanting out the Omen soundtrack, Very spooky. This is reason I try to stay ahead or behind him at all times – preferably behind so he can clear out the ticks before I come through. I think it also helps me that my field gear weights slightly less than 12 pounds where Ron’s is slightly heavier (and I men slightly) than a cracker jack box. Birds fear the Beast and would never dare attack it- cracker jack boxes… different story.


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