Pair of terns


Just about every May I head up to Ohio’s north coast, along the Lake Erie shoreline, to get photos of warblers during their spring migration. 

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Magee Marsh and the many other parks that line the southwest coast of Lake Erie are filled with warblers for a couple of weeks each spring. The birds gather to rest and feed before making the long flight across the lake to their breeding grounds in Canada.

I always return from the trip with some nice photos of a variety of warblers.

But I often return with nice photos of other bird species — like Bald Eagles, ospreys, herons, egrets, swans — that call the watery area home. 

I found these Common Terns, the subject of my photo pf the week, debating the possession of a small fish during a 2017 photo hike through Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. One tern, the one holding the fish, was perched on branches of a log floating in an inlet off Lake Erie. The other was fighting strong wind on an overcast morning, trying to gain possession. The scene was playing out a few hundred yards from my position at the north end of the refuge.

I liked the high-key look of the scene — light birds on a light background — but wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a usable, sharp image from that distance. The same wind that was pushing the tern was creating fast-moving waves in the water, drawing the attention of the autofocus on my camera. It was also blowing the very long telephoto lens on my camera. Using that lens on a windy day is kind of like trying to hold a sailboat steady in the wind.

But I grabbed a series of shots and hoped for the best. I liked this one because it best displayed the food fight taking place over the vast expanse of water.

Common Terns are pale gray — almost white — overall with a black cap. These terns were displaying their spring breeding plumage, when the bird has a full back cap that extends from its bill to the back of the neck with an orange bill tipped in black and orange legs. In other times of the year the Common Tern has a white forehead with a partial black cap (top of the head and neck), black bill and black legs. This photo also shows the dark trailing edges on the wings that can be seen when the tern is flying.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: May 17, 2017, 10:47 a.m.  
Location: 41°37'28.055” N, 83°12'22.326” W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
Aperture: f/8  
Shutter: 1/1000th second
ISO: 320