Least Terns 2012

An interior least tern chick hides in the grass on a large sandbar in the Mississippi River in far western Kentucky. Least tern chicks are masters of camouflage. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro.


One of my favorite projects each year is our work on the Endangered interior least tern.  After at least 4 consecutive years of flooding during the breeding season coming into the 2012 season, the least terns desperately need a good season.  And that we have for 2012.  The Ohio and Mississippi rivers are at the lowest levels I have seen in my time in Kentucky.  The river gauge at New Madrid, MO needs to read below 28 feet before the first island appears…today it is reading 0.2 feet.  There are islands in places I have never seen before.  This has been a great season for the terns.  Today we checked nests on one of our larger Mississippi River bars and the terns were hatching in large numbers.  These are a few of the pictures I shot of the chicks today.  They are masters of camouflage!


Interior least tern chicks are the masters of hiding...even when there is no cover. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro.


Up close with an interior least tern chick. The sand give a good perspective on size. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro.


A least tern chick less than an hour after hatching. It is rare to find the egg still in the nest.


A dead interior least tern chick seen during nest checks. With the extreme heat we have been having, this little guy likely was the victim of the heat and had probably been dead for ~24 hours before we got there. This is why we work so hard to protect these colonies. Chicks die from the heat stress without disturbance and even a few minutes of disturbance can increase this by orders of magnitude. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 macro.
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