The birds stand together like a wall of feathers; if I counted, there might be twenty of them. The wind is whipping furiously on the gulf coast today. They still stand strong however, staring. I look towards their sight line, but there doesn’t appear to be anything interesting to stare at.
They are dapper gentlemen… black slicked back toupees, gray vests over white dress shirts. Their beaks as orange as the blazing sun. As we slowly approach, they shuffle a little but stand tall, still staring. Just a few more steps and they’re OFF! They take flight like a sortee of helos, travel above our heads into the wind, and land behind us. They take up their position, identical to before, staring into the distance, like sentries on watch.
Hayden and I approach again; determined to get closer for the perfect photo. The camera, firmly gripped in one hand, is primed, ready to shoot. We move forward, step…by…step…by…step…
The spunky 12-year old just can’t contain herself.
A mischievous twinkle in her eye.
Smiling, I give her the one-finger wait signal.
Shutter speed adjusted…
Feet planted in the sand…
Body crouched low…
The birds fly.
They soar above, battling the wind with their frail, hollow bodies.
To land behind us.
The watch continues.
Their name: the royal tern.