A few days ago I received a Facebook message. From a good birding friend in SIngapore. And with a map too. I was enlightened “there are Terns in Tuas that are feeding their young… not so easy to find, but great for Bird In Flight (BIF) shooting!” I felt sad. Because typically when I hear something like this, work commitments can’t be simply subordinated to provide time to grab the photography gear and RUN! And last week, I didn’t have the luxury of dropping work commitments for even the briefest period. Too much to do and with unsurprising reality, too few hours to do it in. So running towards these terns, was not a happening thing.
I wanted to run. But alas, no. And for those of you who have met me, you’ll recognise that my ‘frame’ is not particularly accustomed to running 🙂 . I’d pretty much given up on the idea of going to photograph these Little Terns, and fully expected that the birds would have left already, by the time the weekend came and I could get out there to shoot them. Oh well. “There’ll be a next time”, I thought.
Yet whilst looking at SIngapore birding posts on Facebook yesterday, a buddy of mine had posted that he had been shooting these Little Terns. I messaged him and he confirmed that earlier that day, he’d taken these photographs. THEY WERE STILL THERE! Sadness ‘terned’ to excitement in a nanosecond. And Tuas twas the place to be on Sunday morning. Yehey! my mind began to fill with anticipation. I could get my turn to shoot a few terns. Some aerial shots of Terns making their aerial turns. Perhaps see the chicks. Possibly they’s be getting fed. Maybe they’d be taking turns. I guess my mind was ‘terning’. So off to Tuas on a Sunday morning… I knew this would be interesting.
The location of these birds in Tuas wasn’t exactly in a ‘mainstream’ location. If there was an airport in this place, its’ airport code would be ‘MON’, an acronym for Middle Of Nowhere. And I fully expected my GPS (Global Positioning System) device to change its’ meaning in Tuas to Generally Pretty Stumped. And I was right. It was stumped. It had as much chance of getting us to where we needed to go, as having Stevie Wonder drive us there in a Comfort Citicab. Turn after turn after turn, to find a tern, which turned out in the end, with assistance from the cellphone and google maps. We got to the recommended place.
There was much activity. Plenty of photographers. But things took a tern for the worse. The Terns had gone. Chicks had fledged. No feeding activity. Oops. But anyway I thought I’d chat with a few fellow bird photographers and they remarked that maybe in a different place in Tuas, we could have more luck.
So after getting directions, off we went. On the away back to the car, I saw a Black Shouldered Kite. And then another, perched on a fence at some distance. I didn’t get really clean shots, but nonetheless, It was nice to see 🙂 .
We arrived at the spot which, thankfully, was made clearer because some photographers were leaving. I knew some of them and they confirmed the birds were still there. Around 450 metres away. In open(ish) ground. SO off I went, taking care to watch the floor to make sure a Tern chick wasn’t inadvertently trodden on. They’re very well camouflaged, you see. Think albino Polar Bear on a glacier, and these chicks will blend in better than that.
Finally we found other photographers that had their artillery like long lenses trained in all manner of directions. But facing downwards. So I guessed that the chicks were still in situ and I prepared to photograph them.
I guessed that the parents would come to feed the chicks and waited with anticipation, scanning the sky for a Little Tern with a fish in its’ beak. The first parent arrived within my view fish-less and landed a few yards away from the chick.
The chick proceeded to plant itself under the parent, and avoid those nasty sun rays. I have to say that this scene is way beyond ‘cute’ and reflects a bond that’s joyous to see, and a delight to shoot.
I was trying out a recently purchased video head on my tripod, so aside from the obvious pleasure of watching these majestic birds, I had the chance to shoot them on the wing and put the new video head through its’ paces. I had appointments later that day, so knew time was not elastic and maybe 45 minutes shooting was all I had left.
Unruffled by the pressure of time, I merrily tried over and over to track the birds in flight, letting off a burst of shots when I thought focus had been achieved… a somewhat ‘hit and miss’ affair at best, and I hoped above all hopes that perhaps I’d had a few lucky terns.
Against a reasonable sky and with EV pushed upwards 1 stop, the 1DX trademark ‘machine gun’ shutter was unleashed. I turned up the shutter speed in Tv mode to 1/4000 of a second, given the brightness and given the ease with which i could keep ISO levels, and ensuing noise, to a minimum.
Quick checks in the LCD screen told me little, as no sooner had I started to check, than further opportunities to shoot presented themselves. I was having a blast, at last. I guess it was my tern to have fun this morning 🙂 . The time to leave quickly raised its’ ugly head and with much disappointment, the reality of exit was dawning upon me.
I didn’t get to see the parents return with fish to feed the youngsters. I took a few more shots of the parents whilst grounded, and hoped in my last few minutes that a fish bearing parent would return.
Alas this was not to be. Nonetheless, I had a great time shooting these gorgeous birds and observing the boundless accuracy with which they ply their wings in the breeze, maintaining a hovering position for a few seconds, before changing direction so fast that their ability to ‘corner’ could be likened to electricity.
Time to go 😦 . But a lovely adventure. Twas a morning in Tuas. And I got my turn, tern and terns. What a great start to a Sunday, and indeed a new week.
Happy Days 🙂 .