Migrant Foster’s Tern Motion Trails in 60 Seconds (13 photos)

There is a relatively narrow window for observing north bound migrant Foster’s terns’ flocking behavior in Marin. They might hang out for a few weeks before heading north to their major nesting areas. And there is even a narrower window for photographing their beautiful balletic flocking formation. Most of the time they hunt, scattered and occasionally, as if by magic they come together, seemingly expressing joy at bonding.

By happy photographic accident in 2014 I made an single unscheduled motion trail Fosters’ photo, which turned a few heads. http://philipchudy.com/blog/?p=1346 .

2014 – the original lucky long exposure grab shot of a flock of Fosters terns blurred as they flocked in the dusk

Having lifted the camera to my eye without having checked any settings, I found that they camera was set to ‘small jpeg’ and the lowest ISO setting, the image was far from optimal in photographic terms. And then the subjects flew off.

I did not notice the merits of the image until I returned to base and then regretted that I had not shot more like it at the time. Since it seemed that the photo could never be retaken gave it no more thought.

But, a couple of weeks ago I noticed a few individual birds fly past, when I was out for a walk – and it struck me that I should at least show up the next day and make a token attempt to capture similar images in higher quality.

It was a bleak mostly overcast evening. the birds were scattered all over the water and I shot a whole bunch of ‘nothing’ pictures just to convince myself that I had ‘tried’. I was ready to give up when suddenly they came together, made a couple of rounds of tight coordinated flight before disappearing into the great beyond of the North Bay.

I checked the photo metadata and the entire flocking event lasted around 60 seconds and then they were gone. I shot about 40 frames and I selected 12 for this gallery.


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