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Fairy Terns Playing the Mating Game

Fairy Terns Playing the Mating Game
Photo Information
Copyright: Janice Dunn (Janice) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-09-11
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 30d, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/1600 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Travelogue: Norfolk Island Holiday
Date Submitted: 2007-09-25 1:16
Viewed: 5089
Points: 34
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Fairy Terns
Gygis alba

Sorry people, but I only had my Canon EF 24-105mm lens with me when I was photographing these birds. I wished I’d had my 70-300 lens. Even better, I wish I’d had Pam’s 100-400 lens with me!! And better still, Howard’s new camera would have better even better!! But I didn’t. . .

P I T Y, but this is as good as I could capture them.

Norfolk Islanders know when Spring has arrived when many pairs of white sea birds arrive around August, September. Usually they arrive in pairs, and are seen over the island and water courting in wonderful aerial flights, wheeling in such unison that they seem controlled by a single brain. The islanders will tell you gravely that this propensity to fly in pairs is because "one good tern deserves another".

These delightful, graceful creatures are known on Norfolk Island as Fairy Terns. Snow-white but for their black bills, feet and eyes, and they have translucent wings. . . The terns normally leave the island in May to spend several months at sea, constantly on the wing.

Fairy terns are small, robin-sized birds with long wings. They have no natural enemies, and generally they are gentle, tame and trusting. They live on remote tropical islands in the Pacific, Indian and South Atlantic Oceans, out-of-the-way spots some people equate with paradise.

They are categorised as pelagic birds - living in the open ocean - and usually only come ashore to breed. Often at dusk and dawn, they skilfully forage for small fish and squid – diving from the sky to dip their beaks below the surface, but without immersing their bodies. They are known to catch flying-fish on the wing – a clever talent. They carry several fish at a time crosswise in their bills when ferrying food back to their hungry young.

But what is so special about these wonderful birds is that Fairy Terns build no nest and lay a single egg in a slight indentation in the branch of a Norfolk Pine or White Oak.

It was once thought that they used mucilage, a thick gluey substance produced by most plants and some microorganisms, to assist the egg to adhere to the branch but this has been found to be untrue.

The mother will somehow incubate the egg without dislodging it - but to leave the branch she drops off backwards. How the chicks hatch safely on this precarious perch is a source of great wonderment.

Check out the workshop for a close up of a pair on the tree branch. These were the pair in the photo – they had been dancing in the air together and were now resting on the branch of a Norfolk Pine. It was very high up too.

haraprasan, Aaltjie, Luis52, Silke, fartash, marhowie, JORAPAVI, livios, scottevers7, cecilia, greenpinkorange, Argus, janhendrik has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To coasties: ThxJanice 1 09-27 02:30
To ralfsworld: NumbersJanice 1 09-25 13:56
To Aaltjie: Thanks AaltjieJanice 1 09-25 02:52
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Critiques [Translate]

Does not matter what lens you have used, I think it is an outstanding photo. If it was me, that had taken this shot, one would have only have seen 2 dots. Yours is clear and stands out well. The blue are blue and the white are white. No fault at all.
Warmest regards

Ps. Thanks for the information you sent me on the Daddy Long Legs in your area. It was very interesting.

This is a beautiful shot full of lovely colours, the blue coloured background looks beautiful, nice pov,
Best wishes,

Hi Janice
Nice action shot with filing of freedom!
Actually it is not 105mm, It is 168mm with 1.6 from 30D :)

  • Great 
  • Luis52 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1175 W: 8 N: 4240] (15809)
  • [2007-09-25 8:51]

Hola Janice. Bella foto de las Gaviotas. El fondo del cielo en azul luce bellamente. Saludos Luis52.

  • Great 
  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 729 W: 98 N: 1707] (5458)
  • [2007-09-25 10:11]

This is so delicate, Janice!
Superb details, delightful composition

Hello Janice
Very nice shot of this Fairy Terns,
Perfect lighting BG and composition,Welldone.


Hi Janice,

A particular face this type sea birds sitting on a branch. Doesn't matter what kind of lens you use. It is always a very nice capture what you show us. Very sharp, nice colors (like snow so white), fine details and a good composition. Very interesting notes and thanks for the workshop. Regards and TFS Bob

Hi Janice,
Cool shot of these two in their aerial display of courtship. You can definitely see them turned towards one another, in this wonderful capture of love on the fly.
Nice detail, color, and exposure..You could always call it "Fairies on the Fly" ;-}
Gracefully done!

Hola Janice,
Preciosa captura de bella composición con gran definición y detalles, saludos
José Ramón

Hi Janice,
A nice capture of these beautiful birds playing the game of love. In my view the details are great. The POV is also nice and the whites are well exposed and match to the evenly blue BG. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Hi Janice

A delightful shot. You handled the exposure well and the clear blue sky makes for an excellent BG. Fairy Terns are very rare in NZ so you were a lucky girl not only to see them but to have your camera ready too. Good work my friend!

  • Great 
  • livios Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2150 W: 319 N: 4263] (16942)
  • [2007-09-27 11:24]

Janice, this is very nice indeed.

An excellent moment, a great image.

I do enjoy sharpness, exposure and composition. Congratulations on this one.

Hi Janice,
A very good shot on this pair of terns. Nice soft light and a beautiful blue sky backround. I shot alot of terns on my recent trip to the beach. This pair looks great!

Hello Janice, how are you doing this days? what a lovely image you got here - beautifully composed and love the colours as well.

Looks fun! I wish I could fly and play so freely like these two.

I love the clear blue sky that compliments the white of these birds. :) Great sharpness and well displayed. Especially love the details of the 'lines' on their wings.


  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2007-10-06 12:58]

Hello Janice,
This is a beautiful capture, wrong lens or not. These fairy terns are shown with all the beauty and grace of the species in flight and the POV and composition is delightful. The blue sky is just the right BG.
Well done and TFS!

Hi Janice,

You did incredibly well with the equipment you had at your disposal. This is so pretty, and I love the note. Very well done.


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