Displaying Sandwich Terns in low light

Courting Sandwich Terns in low lightDisplaying Sandwich Terns in low light – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 500, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 330mm, natural light

Typically I prefer to photograph in what is called “sweet” light but there are times I shoot in low light because I like the subject, the setting or the behavior. These Sandwich Terns were courting early one morning at Fort De Soto’s north beach and even though the light wasn’t “sweet” I felt their displaying behavior was interesting. It wasn’t breeding season; it was taken in September, so I am not sure what this display was all about. Perhaps it was territorial.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. hahaha i like these both dancers =))
    excellent attitude catched mia, bravo !

  2. Gosh Mia!!! Superb shot of these birds up close!

  3. It is just lovely. I like the soft tones which that sort of light gives. It’s interesting about Glen’s comment.

  4. Great photo, Mia. Yours is much better than the one in my book (Kaufman: LIVES OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS), which states courtship on ground — “male feeds fish to female; both birds may point bills up, droop wings, turn heads from side to side. Named after the town of Sandwich in County Kent, England.”

  5. Gorgeous photo!

  6. Oh my. Love that tiara of feathers the bird on the right is wearing. Mega thanks. Again.

  7. Mia,
    It is quite common for birds to court in the Fall. There is a surge of sex hormones that it accompanies. They court, males sing, and copulation may occur. This is probably to reinforce the pair bond. In some cases, this is occurring on or before migration and maybe it keeps the pair together throughout that time.

    Your image is a beautiful capture, as usual. You, like the birds you love so dearly, seldom disappoint.

    Glen Fox
    Ottawa, Canada

  8. Could the answer be “ballet”? You may not have gotten sweet light (how well named), but you got a very “sweet” shot.

  9. Wonderful!
    Beautiful terns!

  10. Awe, that’s a beautiful shot of the Sandwich Terns.

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