Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bowman Beach: Willet Tern Out OK?

After  a pleasant but somewhat lackluster time at the J.N. Darling preserve, the next stop on Sanibel Island was Bowman's Beach. I had only seen the beach on a map and had not heard anything particular about it, but in any of my recent trips outside of Arizona, beaches have always provided the best photos, even if with the worst sunburn. 

Another home-field advantage bird in Florida, Willets were some of the first beachy sightings. Like many shorebirds, they balance out their impressive posture with an economy of style, that is until they show their formal black and white wing-wear. 
These birds were too comfy with me walking by though, and did not allow for any flight shots. 

There were a few Brown Pelicans floating off the shore. A bird of absurd, impressive proportions and colors...I do not understand why this bird isn't utilized in logos, emblems, and advertisements more often, especially for beer companies. Just think about what this bird can chug...

While walking northwest along the beach, the occasional fly-by Tern would prompt an interjection and a blurred photo. After about a mile of walking though, when I was well beyond the range of more casual beach amblers, the Tern numbers started to increase dramatically, particularly for Least Terns.

No bigger than a Sanderling, these dynamos impressed with their fishing skills. While they fly with jerkier, less elegant wingbeats than some other Terns, the Least Terns I observed with very efficient hunters. It maybe helps that it's actually worth their time to go for the smaller, more numerous fish, which don't normally attract other piscivores.

Farther down the beach it wasn't only the number of aerial Terns that was increasing, but also the number of grounded birds. As the giant lumbered through the sand though the pilots scrambled to their ships and took off. By now I could see a roped off area a new I was wandering near Least Tern breeding areas.

It was time to stop exploring now, settle down (to heck with soggy pants!), and observe some Tern loving. Least Tern courtships are well known, but with only a handful of breeding records in Arizona (no surprise), they were not a sight I'd yet experienced in person. To be honest, some of the couples seemed pretty lifeless at first.

And some birds didn't really seem interested in the twitter-pation, though others wouldn't necessarily leave them alone. This female just wanted to sit quietly and read a good book, but in the twenty or so minutes I observed her, two different males came in with offerings in an attempt to redirect her attention.

She was patient but politely declining with the first suitor, but the second fellow, photographed below, received a sharp, immediate rebuke. 

He seemed a bit shocked, as if up to this point in life everyone had told him that he was the most handsome, the best fisher, the most debonair. He'd never heard 'no' before.
The tension was palpable, the awkwardness soaked into the sand like sea foam.

He was lost, sent recoiling into existential crisis as he desperately sought plan B, only to realize it was never there. After a moment, one could tell that she felt bad too, but her answer was final.

She left him to his thoughts.