Share the Shore with Beach-nesting Birds and their Young

A least tern feeds a fish to his young while the mate watches and broods another chick under her wing. 1200mm, 1/1000, f/8, 1/3 EV, ISO 250 © Mary Lundeberg
A least tern feeds a fish to his young while the mate watches and broods another chick under her wing. 1200mm, 1/1000, f/8, 1/3 EV, ISO 250 © Mary Lundeberg

By Mary Lundeberg

When I received a 2020 Philip Hyde Conservation Grant from the NANPA Foundation, I was both excited about using images to conserve threatened seabirds and shorebirds, and scared. How could I stay safe working with schools, and policymakers during a pandemic? Would libraries, nature festivals, and exhibits remain closed?  What I wanted to do was to use images to create awareness of beach-nesting birds, and encourage people to conserve them, and protect their habitat. I’d also hoped to raise awareness of problems shorebirds face, such as human disturbance, habitat loss, predation, climate change, red tide, and plastic pollution. Through my work as a bird steward and photographer, I recognized that some of the threats beach-nesting birds face are caused by people who unknowingly disturb them, so I envisioned educating teachers, students, beachgoers, and policymakers about these threatened species. I hoped that through environmental education, we might be able to raise a generation of people who care about the wildlife around them and respect them. My plan involved youth helping to solve the human disturbance problem through art and messages to the community.

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Least Tern Courtship: How I Got the Shot

Photo of two birds on a beach. One is standing on the back of the other and offering a fish to the one on the bottom. Least Tern Courtship © Rajan Desai
Least Tern Courtship © Rajan Desai

By Rajan Desai

Editor’s note: Massachusetts-based photographer Rajan Desai is a frequent contributor to the NANPA Facebook Group but it’s not often he gets the kind of reaction he saw after posting “Least Tern Courtship.” That photo reached more than 3,500 people, generated 563 engagements, and inspired 44 comments, including “Beautiful photo. It’s like an image of ballet. I can hear the music in my head.” and “Fabulous capture!! I like your explanation of the courtship rituals also. So well done!” His detailed caption explained the birds’ behavior, but what else made the photo so compelling? We asked Desai to tell us about how he got the shot.

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