Skinny Dippin'

© Robert G. Stalnaker

Skinny Dippin'

Uploaded: April 03, 2008


When dipping their skinny bill in the water, Rynchops niger (Black Skimmer) can make a line in the water 15 meters long. It is a sight to behold, with their 44 inch wingspan, and you wonder how they can fly that fast and dip that bill in the water without tipping over from friction or lifting it out (skinny, compressed lower bill allows it). My goal before the year is out is to capture a head-on shot showing the entire line it draws in the water. From a side angle like this, if I were to show the whole length, the skimmer would appear too small in the frame.

f/8, 1/800/ ISO 320, cloudy, center-weighted average, burst 6.5 fps, lens Canon EF 400mm L, handheld, Merritt Island NWR, FL, 3/28/08.

Exif: F Number: 7.1, Exposure Bias Value: 0.33, ExposureTime: 1/800 seconds, Flash: did not fire, compulsory flash mode, ISO: 320, White balance: Manual white balance, FocalLength: 400.00 mm, Model: Canon EOS 40D


Robert G. Stalnaker April 04, 2008

In the words of the man himself, John James Audubon:

“The flight of the Black Skimmer is perhaps more elegant than that of any water bird with which I am acquainted. The great length of its narrow wings, its partially elongated forked tail, its thin body and extremely compressed bill, all appear contrived to assure it that buoyancy of motion which one cannot but admire when he sees it on wing...But, to observe the aerial movements of the Skimmer to the best advantage, you must visit its haunts in the love season. Several males, excited by the ardor of their desires, are seen pursuing a yet unmated female. The coy one, shooting aslant to either side, dashes along with marvelous speed, flying hither and thither, upwards, downwards, in all directions. Her suitors strive to overtake her; they emit their love-cries with vehemence; you are gladdened by their softly and tenderly enunciated ha, ha, or the hack, hack, cae, cae, of the last in the chase. Like the female they all perform the most curious zigzags, as they follow in close pursuit, and as each beau at length passes her in succession, he extends his wings for an instant, and in a manner struts by her side.”
----------------------John James Audubon, circa 1837

Michael Umbreit April 06, 2008

Robert - Really neat shot! Excellent lighting and details! This is something that I have yet to see. - Mike #5752095

Robert G. Stalnaker April 07, 2008

Mike, thanks for visiting. When you eventually see the skimmer in action, you will be entertained for sure. They feed mainly at night. Re the lighting, there was an unusual glow due to smoke from a "prescribed burn" that NASA did for the benefit of the Florida Scrub Jay (see my photo "Species Preservation--Space Exploration"). The sun's rays were diffused through the strong smoke. #5757718

Holly Shao April 08, 2008

Awesome capture and beautiful colors, Robert!!

Holly #5761559

Richard P. Lussier April 08, 2008

Another incredible capture, Robert, and your descriptions really continue to add a lot of flavor. Like Mike U., I have never seen this type of bird, on TV or in person. I should just visit your site instead of Discovery channel! :)

Your additions are always a pleasure to view and read! #5763943

Derek D. Dafoe April 09, 2008

Great shot Robert! Thanks for the info. too!! #5766605

Ken Smith level-classic April 09, 2008

I like the crop on this...bird flying thru the scene...enhances the motion. Nice capture, Robert! #5768023

Dee Langevin level-deluxe April 10, 2008

Wonderful motion capture Robert with terrific detail! I love to watch these skimmers in action, but it's very difficult to photograph them since they move so quickly. Nice job! #5769903

Jennifer Burt April 10, 2008

Another great photo but I have yet to find any of yours I don't like. #5770397

Robert G. Stalnaker April 10, 2008

Thank you all for your comments and for visiting my gallery.

Holly, re the colors, I was fortunate to have the smoke from the burn as mentioned above, and on this skimming run, Rynchops niger went down a narrow area of water with vegetation on both sides, so that wonderful amber glow appeared on both the foreground and background.

Dee, they are hard to photograph due to their speed and zigzagging as you say, but the one thing they do is they make a wake in the water, then make this long sweep, and about two minutes later, will retrace their route as small fish head toward the wake--the skimmer uses this technique to attract prey. Photographers can use this trait to their advantage by staying still and trying to photograph the skimmer on its tracing run next time around--it will duplicate the exact same path.

Richard, I truly appreciate your comment. I try to add background info to my photos to help visitors get a feeling of being there with me. #5770701

Cheryl E. Molennor April 10, 2008

I Love watching these guys. Great timing on this catch! #5771122

Raquel J. Ruiz April 10, 2008

Who ever said timing is everything couldn't have been more correct.........This is very stunning and I love it! Awesome job :o) #5773135

Gilbert W. Covington April 11, 2008

Great wildlife capture Robert. #5775135

Kristi A. Howson April 12, 2008

Great timing and gorgeous shot Robert! #5779721

April 15, 2008

A powerful capture. What a great bird! Thanks for the info about it, I've never seen one before. Beautiful series of photos, Robert! #5792441

Donna La Mattino Pagakis level-deluxe April 15, 2008

Excellent timing on this Robert, great scenery too. Beautiful image!!! #5793639

Bill Houghton April 18, 2008

Robert, great shot of this skimmer. Well done. Bill #5802755

Candice L. Carter April 18, 2008

What a way with the bird you have! Another brillant capture Robert and no surprise on the EP! #5803354

Candice L. Carter April 18, 2008

What a way with the bird you have! Another brillant capture Robert and no surprise on the EP! #5803355

Sharon Day level-classic April 18, 2008

Beautiful capture, Robert!!! #5805810

Susan Candelario May 16, 2008

Great Capture and details, Robert!!! #5930795

Randy L. Quast May 22, 2008

Great photo the color and clarity are very very good. #5964501

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