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Skimmerrama on Tybee Island

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One good encounter can make my day. Or my whole trip. I had been yakking on the phone with a friend one sunny cool morning. I'd done my 5 mile run and my crunches and lifts and was thoroughly enjoying myself on Tybee Island, Georgia, when I saw a flock of several hundred black skimmers settle like ashes on the beach.

How deluxe it was to have so many. I threw on some clothes, hoisted the big lens and hurried out to act like the last thing in the world I cared about was several hundred black skimmers resting on the deserted beach.

I walked straight toward the water, watching them out of the corner of my eye, looking off to the side, out to sea.

I got closer and closer. The near birds: still sleeping. Good.

I mustn't get any closer. I couldn't believe my luck.  Such beautiful, beautiful birds.

They found a four-winged dinosaur fossil in China. Here's the modern-day version.

I don't know what corollary of Murphy's Law followed me around the beach at Tybee, but every time I had a photo op with cooperative birds, somebody came along and put them all up for me.
Even on a deserted winter beach, it seems somebody's always willing to walk plumb into the middle of a peacefully resting flock. No polite detours for us, nossir. Right smack through the middle.

Dum de dum de dum...buncha birds...whatever...never mind the woman lying on her side with a camera pointed at them, quietly cursing my complete lack of situational awareness.

Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack said the skimmers

and went up in a slice of black wings

delighting a little girl and



Their shadows raced across the sand and I almost keeled over from delight at the perfection of the scene.

They wheeled and turned

strange terns that they are

I failed to get used to the sight of several hundred skimmers overhead. I don't think I ever could.

Birding with a Georgia Ornithological Society group, I looked up to see this flock going past Tybee Lighthouse. 

I couldn't help it.  I squealed and laughed and freaked out, shooting and shooting as the big black and white birds rowed easily over.

Someone in the group softly whispered the equivalent of "Jeez, take a powder!"

as if this were not the most miraculous thing that ever happened, having 600 skimmers pass just overhead. OK. Maybe you're used to this. Maybe you see it every day. I don't.

I was not embarrassed, nor was I about to apologize. I just felt sorry for anyone who couldn't fully appreciate a sight like this in the cloud-swirled sky, no matter how many times he might have seen it.

I turned to the group, smiled, and explained myself in only five words.

"This doesn't happen in Ohio."


Hooray for looking for ways to be delighted! I feel bad for people who have a hard time finding magic in our amazing world. There are so many big and tiny, everyday and unusual things that are spectacular. Not taking these moments seems so boring, and looking silly is a very small price to pay.

Amazing! What a grand experience. I saw my first black skimmer in Texas last spring, then again in the summer in Florida - a very close flyby while skimming of a single bird for that second sighting, and my jaw just dropped at the grace and beauty. You've captured all that and more here! Thanks for sharing.

wow. just divine. some of those photos look like your paintings--one photo reminds me of your--was it a Caspian tern study that you did in BWD? It was amazing, as I lovingly recall.Glory, glory halleluah to those fabulous skimmers and you.XOM

Posted by Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Why would anyone object to unbridled enthusiasm anyway, geesh! What great photos, almost like I were there....almost! :)

My mother and I delight at finding flocks of skimmers, and we live in Florida. Just like watching music come to life!

So many great shots! I'm glad you got to see the big flock. I see them pretty often and still love to watch them all flying together. We lost most of our skimmer babies back when thunderstorm Debbie hit last year so ever one is precious.

It doesn't happen in Wisconsin either. : ) I would love to see that many.

It is amazing how "inconsiderate" people can be when you're clearly taking pictures. The stories we all have.

By the way, I enjoy seeing the pictures of Phoebe snuggling Chet Baker. Keep posting them.

A wonderful post, and I love your delight and enjoyment of the skimmers. Don't ever apologize!

He wasn't thinking about birds. The Whiting swimming just inside the surf break were his focus.
Sweet and succulent sea candy... they can cause tunnel vision sometimes.
I know this.

Been up in the Cockspur Island light with my sweetheart and best dog Ranger a million years ago.

Like dolphins,skimmers always make me giddy.

Amazing birds and amazing photos.

Totally agree that people just don't take the time to see. I remember last year walking quickly in downtown DC in the early evening to get somewhere when a flock of geese flew just over the tops of the buildings making quite the noise with their honking. I had to stop and watch and smile. Yes, geese are common but you don't see them flying in downtown DC that often. I felt bad looking around and not one other person in the throngs bothered to take a moment and look up.

I loved your descriptions of the skimmers. I have had the same experience and loved your words and pictures. They made me relive it. Thanks for sharing your true feelings and love of nature.

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I confess to having that reaction with almost every first ... but especially the birds en masse ... like Snow Geese and 10,000 Crows flying into their nightly roost all at once. If I were to lie on a beach, camera in hand, with a lens-full or sky-full of skimmers, as you portray, I would not be able to 'take a powder.' ;)

I Love to read your blogs Julie. You describe things perfectly. I can tell you are having a grand time!

Well said! "This doesn't happen in Ohio." My feelings exactly!

Now I know where our South Jersey skimmers have gone! We have a wonderful flock every summer in Egg Harbor Township along the Longport Causeway. I am such a fan, my co-worker made me a skimmer out of Legos. Thanks for your beautiful photos ... made me feel summer is just around the corner.!

Very cool photo with the flock of skimmers and shadows on the beach!

I am on my first trip to Tybee. Went out for walk my first morning in very cold and windy November weather and immediately found a flock of black skimmers by the pier. At the time I didn't know what they were, but that is no surprise because I am not a "real" birder, just someone who loves nature. I had never been to Tybee before and had never seen this bird before. Like you, I was totally delighted with them! I spent a long time just watching them. I couldn't believe how many there were. Thanks for your post which helped me identify the birds and to share in the joy they bring.

Posted by Anonymous November 25, 2013 at 5:53 AM
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