It’s Not Easy Growing Up on Nickerson Beach … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

It's Not Easy Growing Up on Nickerson Beach ...

Your Call

Which of today’s four predation images do you think is the strongest, the one that best tells the story? Please leave a comment letting us know which one you like best and why. And remember, there are no wrong answers. Partaking in these exercises gives everyone a chance to think and learn. Including and especially me.

BIRDS AS ART Office Phone Out!

A tree fell on our phone lines while I was in Deland last week. 863-692-0906 is currently down. If you need to get in touch with BAA, please try my cell at 863-221-2372. If I do not pick up, please shoot us a text. The land line is scheduled to be repaired this coming Wednesday.

What’s Up?

It is just after 5pm on Sunday as I work on this post. I am in my roomette on the Auto Train headed north to Lorton, Virginia. We read speeds of up to 80mph. At 3/4 of a mile long, it is the longest passenger train in the USA. We are scheduled to get into the station by 10am. I pay extra to have my vehicle be among the first 30 off the train as I will have a long drive to my AirBnB in Oceanside, NY.

Today is Monday 1 August 2022. I do not expect to get any photography in this afternoon. Beginning on Tuesday, I will be very busy 🙂 Several folks are coming for In-the-Field instructional sessions. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about two hours to prepare (including the four new image optimizations) and makes one hundred thirty days in a row with a new one.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

Clockwise from the upper left corner back around to the center: Wilson’s Phalarope, JBWR; just fledged Common Tern, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, adult skimming, Nickerson; Black Skimmer killing tiny skimmer chick, Nickerson; American Oystercatcher foraging at sunrise, Nickerson; Common Tern chick swallowing baby bluefish, Nickerson; Short-billed Dowitcher, juvenile, double overhead wing stretch, JBWR; Black Skimmers, predawn flock blur, Nickerson; Black Skimmer, 10-day old chick, Nickerson.

Click on the card to view a larger version.

Nickerson Beach/East Pond JBWR composite

Nickerson Beach/East Pond at Jamaica Bay (JBWR) In-the Field Workshops

Both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at JBWR offer some of the best midsummer bird photography on the planet. Hundreds of pairs or Black Skimmers and Common Terns along with more than a dozen pairs of American Oystercatchers breed at Nickerson each season so there are lots of chicks of all sizes and handsome fledged young to photograph. Provided that the water levels are low, hundreds of young shorebirds in their handsome fresh juvenile plumages stop by the pond each August on their way south.

Nickerson often reveals nature at it rawest, most basic level. Most days we get to photograph all sorts of dramatic behaviors ranging from skimmers and terns fishing and feeding (and tending) their young. There are often chances to shoot a variety of predatory encounters — gulls eating large skimmer chicks, skimmers eating skimmer babies, and Peregrine Falcons hunting. And rarely, if we are lucky, Peregrine Falcons catching! Consider joining me to learn a ton both about bird photography and the birds.

I am taking the Auto Train north on 31 July and will happily spend all of August on Long Island. I head south on 31 August and should be back home on 1 September (barring anything unforeseen). I am offering In-the-Field sessions at both Nickerson Beach and the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. If you are interested, please get in touch via e-mail or text me at 863-221-2372.

Whether you are a local or would like to fly in for several days of instruction — a sort of private, or small group. — at worst, IPT, LMK via e-mail so that we can work on a schedule that could possibly include both Nickerson and Jamaica Bay.

The First DeSoto IPT

If you are interested in the first DeSoto IPT, 3 1/2 Days, Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022, know that I just reserved a three-bedroom AirBnB in Gulfport. Share it for four nights with many multiple IPT veteran Monte Brown and me and save a ton on lodging: $83.69/night/person for a whole home. AirBnB photos available upon request. If interested, shoot me an e-mail.


Follow me on Instagram here. I am trying to feature both new and old images, especially images that have not appeared recently on the blog. Or search for birds_as_art.

BIRDS AS ART Image Optimization Service (BAA IOS)

Send a PayPal for $62.00 to or call Jim at 863-692-0906 and put $62.00 on your credit card. Pick one of your best images and upload the raw file using a large file sending service like Hightail or DropBox and then send me the link via e-mail. I will download and save your raw file, evaluate the exposure and sharpness, and optimize the image as if it were my own after converting the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw. Best of all, I will make a screen recording of the entire process and send you a link to the video to download, save and study.

Induro GIT 304L Price Drop

Amazingly, we have two, brand-new-in-the-box Induro GIT 304L tripods in stock. They are $699.00 each (were $799.00) and the price now includes the insured ground shipping to the lower 48 states. Weekday phone orders only: 863-692-0906. Order yours here while they last.

Please Remember

You can find some great photo accessories (and necessities, like surf booties!) on Amazon by clicking on the Stuff tab on the orange/yellow menu bar above. On a related note, it would be extremely helpful if blog-folks who, like me, spend too much money on Amazon, would get in the habit of clicking on the Amazon logo link on the right side of each blog post when they shop online. As you might expect, doing so will not cost you a single penny, but would be appreciated tremendously by yours truly. And doing so works seamlessly with your Amazon Prime account.

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, is also available in the BAA Online Store, it would be great, and greatly appreciated, if you would opt to purchase from us. We will match any price. Please remember also to use my B&H affiliate links or to earn 3% cash back at Bedfords by using the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout for your major gear purchases. Doing either often earns you free guides and/or discounts. And always earns my great appreciation.

Brand-New and As-Good-As-Ever Bedfords BAA Discount Policy

Folks who have fallen in love with Bedfords can now use the BIRDSASART coupon code at checkout to enjoy a post-purchase, 3% off-statement credit (excluding taxes and shipping charges) on orders paid with a credit card. The 3% credit will be refunded to the card you used for your purchase. Be sure, also, to check the box for free shipping to enjoy free Second Day Air Fed-Ex. This offer does not apply to purchases of Classes, Gift Cards, or to any prior purchases.

Money Saving Reminder

Many have learned that if you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H and would like to enjoy getting 3% back on your credit card along with free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex Air shipping, your best bet is to click here, place an order with Bedfords, and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If an item is out of stock, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell phone at (479) 381-2592 (Central time). Be sure to mention the BIRDSASART coupon code and check the box for Free Shipping. That will automatically upgrade to free 2nd Day Air Fed-Ex. Steve has been great at getting folks the hot items that are out of stock at B&H and everywhere else. The waitlists at the big stores can be a year or longer for the hard-to-get items. Steve will surely get you your gear long before that. For the past year, he has been helping BAA Blog folks get their hands on items like the SONY a 1, the SONY 200-600 G OSS lens, the Canon EOS R5, the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, and the Nikon 500mm PF. Steve is personable, helpful, and eager to please.

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If You Enjoy the Blog …

Please, if you enjoy and learn from the blog, remember to use one of my two affiliate programs when purchasing new gear. Doing so just might make it possible for me to avoid having to try to get a job as a Walmart greeter and will not cost you a single penny more. And if you use Bedfords and remember to enter the BIRDSASART code at checkout, you will (still!) save 3% on every order and enjoy free second-day air shipping. In these crazy times — I lost about fifty thousand dollars in income due to COVID 19 — remembering to use my B&H link or to shop at Bedfords will help me out a ton and be greatly appreciated. Overseas folks who cannot order from the US because of import fees, duties, and taxes, are invited to help out by clicking here to leave a blog thank you gift if they see fit.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. If you are desperate, you can try me on my cell at 863-221-2372. Please leave a message and shoot me a text if I do not pick up.

This image was created on 21 July 4 with the no-longer available (except from BAA) Induro GIT 304L tripod/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop off the light blue water: 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3. Daylight WB.

Center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as was best back then with moving subjects). Click on the image to see a high-res version.

Image #1: Young Black-backed Gull swallowing juvenile Common Tern

It’s Not Easy Growing Up on Nickerson Beach …

Predation is an every day fact of life (or death) at Nickerson Beach each August. Both the skimmers and the terns have been very productive for the past few years so there are literally many hundreds of youngsters both in the colonies and out on the beach. The gulls see them as sustenance — tasty morsels to be picked apart. At times they swallow skimmer fledglings whole.

The Black-backed Gulls are the main predators but, I have seen Herring Gulls getting in on the action as well. Some Laughing Gulls hang around mainly in July in hopes of grabbing a small chick or two. This image was made on a sunny but very windy afternoon, well away from the surf. The gull in the front looks as if it might be in its second year. The gull in the back is a worn juvenile. I pretty much had no pleasing shot until the bird in the front leaned forward. I have seen Peregrines streak by on many occasions, but neither they nor I got lucky. They do put the whole colony up in fear.

This image was created on 29 August 2021 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on damp sand, I used the hand held Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2500. Exposure was determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/1000 sec. at f/4.5 (stopped down 1/3-stop). AWB at 7:10:10am on a cloudy morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #2: Juvenile Black-backed Gull with young Black Skimmer carcass

Not a Puppet

This image was my favorite from a long series as the gull lifted the head of the hapless young skimmer, making it look alive, or at least like some sort of macabre puppet.

I placed the lens hood on the sand. That gave this image the super-low perspective.

This image was also created on 29 August 2021 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. While seated on damp sand, I used the knee-pod technique for this one. The image was made with the handheld Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 2500. Exposure was determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/1250 sec. at f/4.5 (stopped down 1/3-stop). AWB at 7:15:59am on a cloudy morning.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #3: Black Skimmer dive-bombing adult Black-backed Gull with young Black Skimmer carcass

Leave My Kid Alone!

The victim in this image is actually the same young skimmer that is pictured in Image #2. An adult great black-backed flew in, grabbed the prey from the young gull, and flew down the beach a bit. When I saw the skimmer getting pissed off, I focused on the gull and fired off a few frames. One reason that I love cloudy days and soft light is that its as if the world were a giant soft box; you can shoot in almost any direction without being concerned with sun angle. That said, the light usually has some direction on cloudy days.

This image was created on 29 August 2021 at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, Long Island, NY. I used the hand held Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 lens at 75mm and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 1600. Exposure determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/320 sec. at f/8 (stopped down 2 stops) in Aperture Priority mode -/1.3 stop. The exposure was confirmed as dead solid perfect by RawDigger. AWB at 6:35am in pre-dawn light.

Upper Zone/AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Click on the image to see a version that fits in your browser window.

Image #4: Black Skimmer fledgling — partial carcass: wings, neck, and head

Not Just a Snapshot

I was glad that I had the 24-105 in my Xtra-hand vest. I love the green sand — it had been underwater the day before, and the contrasting bloody red head and neck. Once I had the exposure set perfectly, I took lots of images before I came up with one that I really liked. My main concern was the angle of the carcass in the frame. Creating a vertical at the angle I did makes it look as if the bird were taking flight. Note all the shorebird footprints. As I was shooting straight down, I had to be sure to keep the toes of my surf booties out of the frame!

Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images
A Video Webinar: $30 by electronic download

Order your copy by clicking here.

Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images

A Video Webinar

In this 1 hour 28 minute plus video you will learn and be inspired. We cover everything from the very basics to the fine points. After a brief bio, the topics include Behavior, Action, Diagonal Lines, and the Cuteness Factor; Birds in Flight — The Holy Grail of Bird Photography; Mis-Framing!; Basic Image Design/HORIZONTALS: Get the subject out of the center of the frame. Basic Image Design/VERTICALS: The center of the frame is generally fine; The Importance of BACKGROUND; Isolating the Subject; Other Elements of Composition; On Getting Low; Going Wide for Bird-scapes; Super-tight!; Working in Sunny Conditions; Working in Cloudy Conditions; Working in Foggy Conditions; Working in the Shade; Working in Bad Weather; Creating Back-lit Images; Creating Silhouettes; and Creating Pleasing Blurs.

Each segment of the program consists of an average of about 15 images that will drive home the points being made, educate you, and inspire. The instructions and advice, given clearly and concisely, are based on my near-38 years of experience photographing birds with telephoto and super-telephoto lenses. And on several decades of creating educational blog posts.

This presentation is based on the webinar that I did for the South Shore Camera Club in April. You can find some of the comments below along with comments from two of the folks who viewed the webinar the night before the DeSoto IPT began.

You can order your copy of Designing and Creating Pleasing and Dramatic Natural History Images/A Video Webinar by clicking here or by calling Jim with your credit card in hand at 863-692-0906.


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

6 comments to It’s Not Easy Growing Up on Nickerson Beach …

  • avatar Nancy Fischer

    I’ll go with No. 4, “Not Just a Snapshot”. It’s hard sometimes, but I tell people that nature doesn’t take hostages.

  • avatar Jeff Walters

    David adding a little levity, good on you. I don’t mind seeing a few pics of this nature as it reflects life. The dive bomber is a cool shot. Thanks for sharing, safe travels & happy family times.

  • avatar David Policansky

    They aren’t easy to look at, although (as you know) I too have taken photos of predation. All are effective; I think my choice is the gull eating the turn because of its action and immediacy.

  • avatar Paul Smith

    Typo: makes it look as if the bird were taking rlight.

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