This heartwarming photo of nesting black skimmers was taken behind the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, a rehab hospital located in Florida’s Pinellas County.
Photographer Barbara Bowen recalls the circumstances leading up to this shot: Tropical Storm Andrea had moved slowly along the Florida Gulf coast, dropping lots of rain for two days straight before moving north into Georgia and then out into the Atlantic. The storm had hit in the middle of shorebird nesting season, destroying several rookeries along the coast. The black skimmer colony at Indian Rocks Beach was no exception—the beach stayed flooded for two days, and the storm continued to push the water inland.
“The photos of the aftermath were quite devastating, showing only a group of broken eggshells all swirled together in the remnants of the colony.” Luckily, volunteers at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary were able to rescue 10 surviving chicks. Bowen’s photo, she says, tells the story of “black skimmer perseverance as the skimmers chose to re-nest and try again.” Fortunately, it was early in the season, and there was still time to incubate and raise young.
About six weeks later, Bowen checked on the nesting colony. “I was happy to see lots of activity of skimmers fishing, flying, and, yes, feeding their young. This photo was taken of a special mother skimmer who not only enjoyed protecting and nurturing her young but also was open to taking in stray skimmer chicks, which is remarkably uncommon for this species.”
This image was a Top 100 photo from the 2013 Audubon Magazine Photography Awards. To see all of the photos, click here.