Least Terns 2014

A least tern hunkers down in his nest on a Mississippi River sandbar.  The male and female trade incubation duties during the day.  I'm mostly sure this was a male because he offered a fish for his mate on arrival.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A least tern hunkers down in his nest on a Mississippi River sandbar. The male and female trade incubation duties during the day. I’m mostly sure this was a male because he offered a fish for his mate on arrival. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

My favorite project each season is my work with Interior least terns.  They are an Endangered subspecies of terns which nest on Mississippi River and Ohio River islands in western portions of Kentucky.  They are the only endangered species of bird which nests in Kentucky.  My work mainly involves protecting nesting sites where these birds nest.  Changes in flooding regimes of rivers have reduced the number of nesting sites available.  There are generally only a couple sites in Kentucky active each year.  Protection of these sites is critical to the survival of the species.  In addition to posting and protecting sites, we monitor nesting success of birds on these sites.  Flooding is the primary cause of nest lost, but some nests are lost to predators and disturbance.  These are a few pictures from a morning at one of our colonies just a few days after the colony initiated.

 

A least tern stands next to their nest marker after trading out with their mate.  Markers allow us to monitor nest success of this endangered species.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A least tern stands next to their nest marker after trading out with their mate. Markers allow us to monitor nest success of this endangered species. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

Wildlife Technicians Constance Powell and Torrie Perkins search for nests while a barge passes in the distance.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.
Wildlife Technicians Constance Powell and Torrie Perkins search for nests while a barge passes in the distance. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

A male least terns arrives with an insect offering for his mate.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A male least terns arrives with an insect offering for his mate. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

A female least tern receives a small fish from her mate as he arrives to trade out with her on incubation duties.  On this morning, the terns seemed to trade out about every 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A female least tern receives a small fish from her mate as he arrives to trade out with her on incubation duties. On this morning, the terns seemed to trade out about every 30 minutes to 1 hour. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

A lest tern settles in on the eggs after an adult swap.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A lest tern settles in on the eggs after an adult swap. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

A barge pushes it way up the Mississippi River against a strong downstream flow.  The amount of sediment in the water on this day was amazing.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
A barge pushes it way up the Mississippi River against a strong downstream flow. The amount of sediment in the water on this day was amazing. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.

 

This season, we began trapping adult least terns as part of a long term project to monitor movements of terns among colonies.  Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
This season, we began trapping adult least terns as part of a long term project to monitor movements of terns among colonies. Nikon D800E with AFS Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII.
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