Black Skimmer on Board
Acrylic on thin pine board
So the Black Skimmer happens to be one of my favorite birds as it gracefully glides back and forth over smooth water with its lower elongated beak just touching into the water as it feeds on small minnows and shrimps that swim just under the surface of the water. Although their plumage is just black and white , its beak is nearly fluorescent orange. During the mating season on the southeast US coast, the black becomes jet-black and the contrast with the white forehead and under parts is striking. Out of the mating season, the black may be less striking and brownish.
These birds predominantly frequent the saltwater shoreline and gullies but also love to congregate on sandbars to "socialize". Nevertheless, these birds are known to glide and feed on brackish and freshwater ponds as well.
These birds lay their eggs just above the high water mark on sandy beaches and shell banks in slight depressions that occur naturally or are sculpted by the mating couples. This poses a significant risk to the eggs and to the fledgling chicks as occasionally saltwater may engulf the eggs and sweep them into the surf. More concerning however is the newcomers to the lowcountry who violate every attempt to protect these nesting areas such as Bird Key and Deveaux Bank where these areas are roped off and where bright signs warn of unlawful trespassing into these areas. Frequently, I have witnessed intruders who stop at the roped off areas, read the signs and just duck under the string to advance into these fragile protected areas. SOME BRING THEIR PET DOGS! When notified about the restrictions personally, many just shrug their shoulders and give a look of annoyance.
Their methods of feeding are graceful but also humane; just like our f-18 jets in warfare, where the jet has already "locked-in " on its target and is approaching so fast and so low that the prey has absolutely no knowledge of what is about to happen. There is no time for fear to accompany death.
I believe that numbers of mating couples is beginning to expand again as attempts to protect these birds, their nesting sites and their young have shown some success.