The Quest for Something Different/Birthday Gift #1. Four is a Crowd: Least Tern Chicks Food Fight! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Quest for Something Different/Birthday Gift #1. Four is a Crowd: Least Tern Chicks Food Fight!

What’s Up?

My 1 1/2 hour drive was not too bad. Since I left early, I was able to grab a 30–minute nap at a 7-11 ten minutes from the spot were I met Clemens on Monday morning. The Least Tern colony we visited is thriving. I think there are more than 100 young birds including chicks of all sizes and lots of fledged and flying young. And there are still birds on eggs. Learn more about our great but very challenging morning below.

Thanks to all for the birthday good wishes and to those who commented on the Black-necked Stilt images as well.

Today is Tuesday 15 June 2021. the forecast for Southeast Florida is for light southwest winds with isolated thunderstorms early followed by clouds. Just like it was Monday. We will be headed back to the beach again to try to make some more magic. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day.

This blog post took more than an hour to prepare and makes 171 consecutive days with a new one. Please remember that if an item — a Delkin flash card, or a tripod head — for example, that is available from B&H and/or Bedfords and is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great if you opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to save 3% at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And doing so always earns my great appreciation.

Still Need One for Jax In-the-Field

If you are interested in four (two 1/2 and three full) days of In-the-Field Instruction at a great new spot in the Jacksonville, FL area — the afternoon of Sunday 27 June through the morning session on Thursday 1 July 2021, please get in touch ASAP via e-mail for details, or call me on my cell at 863-221-2372. If you have a four-wheel drive truck or an SUV that would do well on the beach, that would be an amazing plus. Inexpensive lodging at a gorgeous AirBnB just 25 minutes from our shooting location is available. We only have room for one more in the 4 bedroom home.

We will be going to the beach in my vehicle (unless you have a 4wD vehicle) for all eight sessions at Huguenot Memorial Park. We will have thousand of birds to photograph. Mainly nesting Royal Terns with chicks of all sizes and Laughing Gulls with large chicks and fledglings. There are nesting Brown Pelicans there as well. We will have tons of flight photography. The terns will be carrying all sorts of fish and shrimp and other prey items for the young. There may be less action for the afternoon sessions, but with any luck at all we will have the larger Royal Tern chicks (and possibly recently fledged young) swimming in the surf (along with young laughing gulls).

This image was created on a beach in Southeast Florida. Standing at full height, I used the Induro GIT 304L/ Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2500. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. AWB at 9:20am on mostly cloudy, sometimes stormy morning.

Wide/AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly by nailing the beak of the bird on our right. As this is a healthy crop, the depth-of-field was provided by the distance to the subject. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Least Tern Chicks fighting over immature flying fish

The Quest for Different: Birthday Gift #1

As we discuss here often, the quest in nature photography is to create something different. It is fairly easy to create perfect field guide type portraits of the tern chicks in sweet light (though we did not have any on Monday morning). The challenge is to make sharp images of the birds in action. With that standard in mind, the image above works very well for me. I am adding it to tomorrows webinar program.

Least Tern Chicks Food Fight!

There is lots of color variation in Least Tern chicks. There are blonde ones, tan ones, brown ones, grey ones, and as they get older, many are starkly black, white and silver. The day dawned mostly cloudy so we did not have a lot of light early on. Going with the 2X TC and the 600s left us fighting for shutter speed using too high ISOs. So I switched the 2X TC for the 1.4X. Much better. Faster and more accurate AF with manageable ISOs. By exposing to the right — RawDigger showed that this image could have gone 1/3 stop lighter, the noise at ISO 2500 was negligible. The sun came out very briefly and then came the rain and the thunder and lighting. We took shelter at the rest rooms and chatted with some campers who were not happy about getting rained out on their first day of camp.

It let up and we headed back for more. Today’s featured image was made after our break. The adults land with a fish and every chick within ten yards comes running. Almost instantly either a chick is fed or the adult takes flight in search of its own young. Usually by the time you are pointing your lens at the subject the action is over and you are looking at sand. Once a chick has a fish, it is often mobbed by others. In this case the upside down brownish–grey chick was fed the fish, and I can assure you that it did not get to swallow it. Anyhoo, when I saw this series I was thrilled on all counts.

Thanks to Dr. Fish, blog regular David Policansky for verifying the identify of the prey item.

Sony Alpha a1 AF

Barring operator error, the performance of the Sony Alpha a1 AF system at any focal length — including at 1200mm as seen in recent blog posts — is, when the a1 is set up properly as detailed in the in e-mails to the Sony Alpha a1 Info & Updates group, more than remarkable. Early on, there was lots of discussion within the group with many preferring multiple back button approaches. For me a simple shutter button approach with the right AF settings that yield 99% sharp-on-the-eye images is best. By far. It is super-simple and mega-effective. In recent SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group e-mails, I shared what I have learned as to when and it what situations it is best to abandon Wide. And with what. The group has already learned to limit the AF Area choices and to switch AF Areas quickly and conveniently. The default method of switching AF points with the C2 button is both slow and cumbersome. In addition, recent e-mails have detailed the best program to use to pick your a1 keepers and the big problem with the Camera Set. Memory menu item.

SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group

For me, today’s featured image would not have been possible without my Sony Alpha a1. The speed of initial focusing acquisition is amazingly quick as is the tracking accuracy. And all of that will be even truer for tomorrow’s featured image.

The SONY Alpha a1 Set-up and Info Group is going great guns as folks chime in with thoughtful questions and experience-based advice. We are now up to an astounding 49 blessed folks. Early on, we discussed the myriad AF options. I gave my opinion as to the best one for flight and general bird photography. More recently, we have been in contact with folks at SONY sharing our thoughts, experiences, and frustrations with the EVF blackout problem.

All who purchased their Alpha a1 bodies via a BAA affiliate link will receive a free subscription to the Sony Alpha a1 Set-Up and Info Updates after shooting me their receipts via e-mail. (Note: it may take me several days to confirm B&H orders.) This same service may be purchased by anyone with an a1 body via a $150.00 PayPal sent to indicating payment for Alpha a1 Info Updates. Alternatively, folks can call Jim weekdays at 1-863-692-0906 to pay via credit card. New members will receive composite e-mails that summarize all previous discussions.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

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