Terns flying, fishing and juggling

During a recent visit to Hendrie Valley Sanctuary at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton Ontario, I had the opportunity to photograph a number of terns as they were flying, fishing and juggling their catch.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @220mm, efov 592mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-280
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 220mm, efov 592mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-280

It was a productive morning and at times there were several terns flying in oval patterns near the perimeter of the pond simultaneously. After taking a few images of them in flight I began to concentrate on capturing them either fishing, or with fish in their mouths.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-200
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-200

Terns signal in advance when they are going to dive to fish. They will abruptly change their flying pattern by suddenly banking or hovering above a target fish.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @220mm, efov 592mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-180
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 220mm, efov 592mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-180

Once committed, they tuck their wings in towards their bodies and plummet into the water. Catching this action before the tern hits the surface of the water can be a bit of a challenge as their decent is very rapid and hard to track.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-720

Sometimes the action happens so quickly that you have to focus your camera on the surface of the water and guess where the bird will enter.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 250mm, efov 675mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-320
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 250mm, efov 675mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-320

The terns quickly surface and usually explode from the surface of the water, with a prize in their beaks if successful.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 270mm, efov 728mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 270mm, efov 728mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-500
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 258mm, efov 695mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-560
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 258mm, efov 695mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-560

After catching a fish, terns eat while in flight to ensure their meal is not stolen from them by other terns or gulls. Fish are usually caught and held at right angles to the bird’s beak when it surfaces. This necessitates some juggling in mid-air so the tern can realign the fish so it can be swallowed head first.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-220
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-220

Luckily I was shooting at 15fps in AF-C with my Nikon 1 V2 and I was able to capture the above tern flipping its catch in mid-air. As you can see in the next three consecutive frames sometimes the tern will lose its catch in mid-air and need to recover it.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-250

If you would like to view some additional tern images I captured at Hendrie Valley Sanctuary, click on the YouTube video below.

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