I could always tell when a flock of Black Skimmers were flying in to Fort De Soto’s north beach when I was photographing birds there because I could usually hear their soft, nasal barking yips or yeps before I saw them. It was always a delight to see them flying in to rest on the beach.
Black Skimmers are aerial acrobats, they can execute hairpin turns sharply, are graceful in flight and in flocks they often wheel or bank in unison.
The adult in the image above is in breeding plumage, in nonbreeding plumage there is a gap between the black on the head and the black of the shoulders. Because of the length of the bill I believe this is a female, the beaks of the males are shorter.
Getting the exposure right on Black Skimmers is crucial, the blacks can block up and show little detail if the image is under-exposed and if the image is over-exposed the whites can be blown out and show very little detail in those areas. The underside of this skimmer was lit from below by the white sugar sand of the beach because the bird was only about three feet over the sand as it came in for a landing. I’ve found that in flight against the sky that I might need to increase the exposure and while they were on or near the white sand I would need to use some negative exposure compensation to make sure the whites weren’t hot.
Black Skimmers are mainly found on the coasts of the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and less frequently along the coast line of the Pacific. They are great fun to photograph and observe.