With the end of July hurtling towards us and our colony, our tern chicks have transformed from little balls of fluff to fledglings. By this point, the chicks have completed the awkward phase of growing out their downy feathers and now have their sleek adult feathers. The feathers on the upper wings, however, are a patchy gray-brown and the black caps seen on adults are more of a thick ring around the base of the head.
For a week or two now, we’ve seen them stretching out their wings, hopping as high as they can. Every once in a while we’d see one attempt a feat worthy of praise, only to tumble adorably (and without injury) to the ground. These chicks are tenacious and it serves them well. For what starts as a few moments off the ground turns into a brief aerial journey of a couple feet. Now we’re seeing them fly throughout the colony! Although not as graceful as their adult counterparts, they’re gaining confidence in their abilities. It’s really an amazing process to witness and be a part of every day.
We’ve attempted “sweeps” of the colony. While Julia was taking care of Ship in our stead, she banded over a hundred chicks in one stint. Mark and I are picking up where Julia left off, chasing down older chicks that have not yet been banded. It’s a lot of digging through grass, running and sliding, sometimes for an already banded chick or a chick that can fly but only chooses to do when you’ve already sprinted halfway down the beach. While catching your breath and picking the rocks out your shoes, you can’t help but smile as you see the little birds flying away.
That’s it for this week! See y’all next Sunday!