Tern Technique

By josh • Nature, Wildlife • 1 Aug 2012

Here in Vermont we don’t see many terns, though either they’re becoming more common or I’m getting better at finding them.  It’s probably a mixture of the two.  Common terns can be found in northern Lake Champlain (I saw them this year in Pelots Bay on the west shore of North Hero) and black terns breed around Missisquoi Bay.  Caspian terns are a bit more widespread throughout the Lake Champlain Basin, and I’ve recently seen them at Shelburne Pond, Shelburne Bay, and along the causeway between Milton (the Sand Bar) and South Hero.

This caspian tern was fishing at the mouth of the Laplatte River at the Shelburne Bay boat launch.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/10, 1/800s, ISO 200

Caspian terns manage to be reasonably elegant despite being roughly the size and disposition of ring-billed gulls.  This bird had already spotted a meal when I arrived, and was waiting for the right moment to drop out of the sky to grab it.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/11, 1/800s, ISO 200

My Dad taught me to point your off-hand and then your leading foot at your target when you’re throwing a baseball.  I guess we can assume this tern is left-winged.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/11, 1/800s, ISO 200

I thought that 1/800 of a second would be quick enough to minimize the motion blur for a bird of this size, but it was still a bit too slow.  I also erred in positioning myself so that the place where the tern splashed down was behind  a guardrail and I missed the chance to catch it hitting the water.

The tern’s technique was better than mine though.

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern, Canon 400mm f/5.6L at f/10, 1/800s, ISO 200

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