Black Skimmers at Fort De Soto Five Years Ago Today

Black Skimmers flying over the Gulf of MexicoBlack Skimmers flying over the Gulf of Mexico – Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 180mm, natural light

It is really cruddy here in Utah this morning so I thought I would go back in time to a warmer,  sunnier day via the magic of some Black Skimmer images I created five years ago today. The sky was clear, there was a light sea breeze and plenty of birds to be found at Fort De Soto’s north beach. My Nikkor 80-400mm lens was being repaired and I opted to bring my Nikkor 70-300mm with me. The birds at Fort De Soto are habituated to people so they approach closer than they do here in Utah so I had no worries about getting frame filling images.

For awhile I photographed Willets and Short-billed Dowitchers from inside the lagoon but then I heard a flock of Black Skimmers coming in from the Gulf of Mexico so I headed down the beach and sat down behind a sand dune to photograph the flock as they flew in. Quite often I would hear the barking “yip” of the skimmers long before I would see them.

Black Skimmer aerial chaseBlack Skimmer aerial chase – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 145mm, natural light

Black Skimmers are highly social birds and the flocks can have more than one hundred individuals so the noise they create can be quite loud. I was able to see and photograph quite a few dramatic, high speed aerial chases. These Black Skimmers vocalized the entire time the aerial chase went on, I had a blast photographing them and trying to keep the two birds in my viewfinder. The light was wonderful and seemed to illuminate even the finest details of the skimmers plumage.

Black Skimmer in flight close upBlack Skimmer in flight close up – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

Because of my position behind a small sand dune the birds approached my location even closer than normal or maybe they were curious about the woman with one big glass eye, I’ll never know for sure but they flew in close several times that allowed me to have frame filling images of the Black Skimmers with the water of the Gulf of Mexico and the clear sky behind them.

It was a marvelous day at Fort De Soto, I had great company, plenty of birds, the warmth of the sun and the smell of the Gulf… SO very much different from the gray skies and rain here today.


Additional posts you might enjoy:

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. I so love Black Skimmers and haven’t yet seen them often enough — usually in Southern California. These photos are such great representations of the birds, I can hear the calls as you describe them. They also have a way of sneaking up on you silent, don’t they. I find their presence to be awesome and inspiring.

  2. Wow. And repeat. Which I could save and just use as a blanket comment here. Each and every day.

  3. Very nice shots! For the last few years we have had about 3 pairs that nest on Martha’s Vineyard Island in the summer. They are moving north.

  4. That first image is wonderful — I didn’t know they were so social. I listened at the link you gave and it made me smile; sounded like a squeak-toy for a dog, which is where I found this: “The remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper. The bird drags the lower bill through the water as it flies along, hoping to catch small fish.” Whatever works is nature’s way.

  5. Great shots Mia! the focus on the first one is perfect across the whole image.Amazing! ($5) ;)

Comments are closed