As The World Terns


“Mom, pay attention. I’m hungry.”


“I said stop ignoring me and get me some fish or I’ll throw a big tantrum.”


“Oh brother, are they flirting?” says the juvenile sandwich tern in the back.


“We are family!”


“Make room for me!”


“Dad, mom said for me to tell you to go get me some fish.”


“Please!!!” says the juvenile on the right.


“Can we get some peace and quiet around here?”


“Here comes a dog. We’re outta here.”

The beach wasn’t covered with shorebirds since it was sunny when I got to Gandy beach after work. There was still a few people out walking around and swimming. I did manage to see a small flock of sandwich terns hanging out together. They were busy preening and bathing and wasn’t paying much attention to me sitting in the car. You would think a lot of drama was going on by the way they were yelling at each other. There were a few baby terns from this spring but now they are as big as the adults. Their beaks and legs aren’t as black as the adults yet. They can fly but I think they are still being fed by the parents. Soon, most of them will be gone heading south with the other migraters.

Black terns on Gandy beach – Skywatch Friday


I had heard there were hundreds of black terns on Gandy beach in early August. By the time I made it over there in late August, there were only a handful still hanging around. Most had lost their all black feathers and were molting into some form of mix of black and white. The above was already in his winter feathers.


You don’t realize how small they are until you see them next to a royal tern. Both little ones on the left and right are black terns in the middle of molting.


Something spooked them and off they went. They circled around and came back to the beach.


Was he showing off or clowning around?

Bye bye. Down below is the reason the terns took off. This time they flew far away to the roped off area at the end of the beach.


This guy thought it was funny to have his dog chasing after the birds. Since they were in the main beach area I didn’t say anything. All of the birds flew over to the sanctuary. I took these from the car. Although it was sunny here on this side of the beach, across the street were dark clouds and I could see lightning headed this way. I was disappointed there was no rainbow.


I couldn’t blame the dog for wanting to run around and have fun. He was cute.


Looking down towards the utility tower. The yellow on the left was a concrete wall so people couldn’t drive past that spot. There are also big signs that say keep out, bird sanctuary but many people don’t pay attention.

I stopped off at the beach on the way home from work to see if any black terns were still there. They migrate through in late summer and stay for a while. It started out sunny when I left work but right after I got to the beach, a nasty storm was heading for me quickly. I snapped a handful of pictures and left.

Check out more sky pictures at Skywatch Friday

Rainy stop on Gandy beach


Royal terns coming in for a landing.


A least tern on the beach.


A banded royal tern. I think this is a juvenile.


“Make room for me!”


Taking a bath.

A juvenile least tern. Probably born a few months earlier.


Another one screaming at the parent to be fed. Even though they are flying now, they are still being fed by the parents.


A least tern taking a bath.


Flapping hard.


Getting the underarms.


Oystercatcher flying right over my head.


Laughing gull coming in for a landing.

It had just stopped raining when I left for work in late June but still drizzling just a little. Since traffic was bad I decided to stop on the Gandy beach and see if there were any new shorebirds around. I figured the rain would have kept the people off the beach. There were a few cars on the beach but none were at the end near the walled off sanctuary. Nothing unusual there but there were a few of the baby royal terns and least terns. They were just starting to fly and will hang out on that beach for a while before they are gone for good. All grown up and somewhere to go.

Least and royal terns at Gandy beach


Least tern with bands. He was born in 2009 on top of one of the industrial buildings close by Gandy beach.


A least tern adult preening before bedtime.


A baby least tern screaming for food. This one is old enough to fly but still getting fed by mom.


The juvenile royal tern on the left is still begging for food. This is a common sight right now on the beaches.


Another juvenile royal tern giving me the eye.


“Can I get some deodorant over here?”


“No? Then I’m outta here.”


“I think I can fly anyway.”

Gandy beach is full of royal and least terns. At least when it’s raining and the beach isn’t full of people. The night I went looking for the white-winged scoter in the rain I stopped by the little beach before Gandy bridge and saw many of the above. All of these were taken from the car. The birds were skittish this night and would take off if I opened the door.


The black terns annual visit to Gandy beach.


Black tern yelling at his offspring. It was low tide after work and the beach had this weird pink tint to it.


The black tern on the left is moulting into his non-breeding colors.


A black tern in full non-breeding feathers.


This one was in the middle of losing his black feathers.


I think this is a juvenile black tern.


Another one in almost black feathers.


Getting his white face.


Taking a bath.


It was interesting to see how different all of the black terns looked with so many in different stages of moulting. They were anywhere from almost black (breeding colors) to almost white. A small flock usually shows up sometime in July to the beach on Gandy bridge (in between Tampa and St. Petersburg) every year. They hang out until some time in August or early September. They are much smaller than laughing gulls and royal terns and not as small at least terns. They stick together and are pretty skittish. All of the above were taken from my car window. If I opened the car door, they would all fly off. Besides, it was drizzling so I stayed dry in the car. It’s a catch 22 on the weather at this tiny beach. If it’s sunny outside I can get better pictures but the beach will be busy with people so the birds are scarce. If it’s bad weather, there’s no one on the beach and the birds hang out right on the shore but my pictures suffer.