Growing up a skimmer

In mid-July the baby black skimmers were growing up quickly and heading out on their own. Many were already down at the water line and practicing their wing flaps.

There were still a few younger ones including the one on the left with a young royal tern and much older juvenile skimmer on the right.

Soon the babies will start flying and leave along with the parents and then all that’s left on the beaches are those annoying laughing gulls, looking to steal some kid’s sandwich or chips.

A small part of the skimmer army, lined up along the water.

Photographing New Zealand

Those cute little sand babies

This baby was begging Mom to go get a fish. He was hungry, biting the parent’s beak and legs.

So many mouths to feed.

This one above appeared hungry but realized he would not be able to get that big fish down. After a few minutes he just sat down and wouldn’t take the fish from the parent. Maybe the parent had already fed them. The fish ended up in the sand.

It took this one a while but he eventually got it down.

After a while all of the babies were napping.

Another bumper crop of black skimmer babies this summer on the beaches in the Tampa bay area. So many babies and the parents were flying back and forth with tiny bait fish to feed them. I always wonder how the parents can find their own babies in a sea of little birds.

Photographing New Zealand

Fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner

All of the baby skimmers were screaming for fish.

Parents were flying in with breakfast.

All the babies were swallowing the fish whole.  Although, I don’t think that’s a fish in that last picture. I think he was trying to eat some random item on the beach.

It’s interesting how each parent can find their own babies among the many babies all huddled nearby. The adults were very aggressive, some trying to steal fish from other babies to feed to their own babies.

More shots from my morning with the baby skimmers on the beach in late July.

Linking to Wednesday Around the World.

Out on the beach in the summer

I hadn’t been out on the beach for a long walk all summer. In late July, I headed out for a walk to get some fresh air and hopefully a cool breeze coming off the gulf. My main reason for going though was to look for skimmer babies. I hadn’t been out to see them in 2 years.  I saw the above as I started my walk.

After a while I saw some skimmers soaring over the beach and finally made it to the skimmer nesting area.

The black skimmers nest right on the beach and there were a lot of babies at all different ages.

The baby skimmers have a tough time growing up. Besides sibling rivalry, there are so many other dangers. Gulls and crows will fly in and snatch the tiny ones if the parents aren’t guarding them. The beaches are full of tourist and the baby skimmers blend into the sand. They could get stepped on. Kids like to chase the birds and make them fly off which leaves the babies exposed. A really bad storm could flood the beach and the babies can’t fly off or swim yet. So many hurdles.

The view from the water. There are a group of volunteer bird stewards that rope off the nesting areas to keep people from stepping on the babies. They guard the area during the busy times and answer any questions that curious tourists may have about the skimmers. And yes, those are volleyball nets in the back so the babies could also get knocked out by a stray volleyball. I took a ton of pictures in the hour I was there so more to come on these cuties.

Learning to swim and skim.

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I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes on a Saturday morning this summer watching baby skimmers learning to do things that adult skimmer do. They were trying to imitate what their parents were doing. Getting their feet wet and trying to figure out what all the fuss was about putting your beak in the water. Soon they’ll be experts at it themselves.

Linking to Saturday’s Critters

The cutest babies of all

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“I am Skippy the Skimmer and I am the cutest one here.”

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“Me first.”

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“This is my fish.”

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“I’m Sparky the Skimmer and I am a little bit older. I’m starting to get color in my feathers and my beak is getting longer.”

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“Where’s my  Mom?  You’re not suppose to bother me, Least tern.” said the baby skimmer.  “But you look tasty and I’m hungry” said the juvenile Least tern.

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“Stay away from my baby!” said the adult skimmer.

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“You stay away as well”

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“I’m sticking close to mom”.

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“Who me? I’m not going anywhere.”

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“Mom, where’s my fish?”

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“I pretend to be brave but now I’m scared and running to hide under Mom.”

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“I’m Stanley, one of the oldest babies skimmers here. I’m almost grown up and just learning to fly. I’m also learning to brake.”

I didn’t make it to see the baby black skimmers until late July. I was expecting to see them all grown up but this was a late year and there were still many tiny babies.  The babies have a lot against them.  Between the tourists getting too close, the crows and laughing gulls trying to get a meal and the risk of high tide, it’s a hard knock life for a little bird. If the tiny babies wander away from the roped off area, a tourist could easily not see him blending into the sand and step on him. If we get another bad storm like Colin back in early June, the tide could get too high and the little babies can’t swim yet or fly away. But, hopefully most make it through.  I took so many pictures of these cute little guys so there are tons more to come.

Linking to Saturday’s Critters