Least Terns 2013

After a great year for terns last summer, high river levels and flooding has made 2013 largely a bust. Flooding form the July 4th weekend wiped out all of the nests in Kentucky. River levels are dropping and habitat will be available this week. Only question is will the terns nest. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.


As a biologist, one of my favorite projects that I get to work on is our research on Endangered Interior least terns.  Last year was a banner year for least terns.  Drought conditions lowered river levels on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the point more than 20 islands were available and utilized by least terns for nesting in Kentucky.  This year couldn’t be more different.  High water levels early gave way to allow nesting on a couple of our larger Mississippi River islands in mid-June.  Heavy rains around the 4th of July again put all nesting sites under water.  We had been monitoring more than 200 nests which were all lost.

I had a chance to visit our largest colony a day or so before river levels would again allow nesting attempts.  The question is, will the terns try one last time.  Traditionally, July 15th is the cutoff for nesting attempts .  We will see if the terns try one last time.  They were certainly hanging out in the area.  Let’s hope 2013 isn’t a total failure.

Least terns sitting on driftwood headed down the Mississippi River near New Madrid, MO. Every piece of floating wood near the nesting island was lined with terns. Are they waiting to try one last time...I guess we will see. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.
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