The Arctic Tern colonies on Westray all behave differently when approached. Their behaviour seems to depend upon which stage in the breeding cycle they are at, the number of breeding birds, the number of non-breeding birds and the routine disturbance they experience from humans and animals. I’m acutely aware of any potential for disturbing them and spend a long time working out how to approach and the best opportunities to photograph them from a distance.

The most effective strategy I’ve found is to watch where they feed and at what time of day and position of the tides. That means I can tell where their flight-paths will be back to their rocky nests and I can simply sit and wait and watch them fly over me. It’s a great feeling to be so close to them and yet be causing them no disturbance, just the occasional sideways look as they catch my camera moving.

Arctic Tern - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s still a challenge to get photographs like this, though, as I’ve got to have sunlight over my shoulder to get the catchlight in their eyes.

Beautiful, aren’t they?

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