The National Wildlife Federation

Donate Donate

Nature’s Witness: Cozy Hideout

A photographer catches an endangered species' endearing moment.

  • Photograph by Melissa Groo
  • PhotoZone
  • Aug 01, 2020

A SUMMER SURPRISE unfolded on New Jersey’s Long Beach Island when photographer Melissa Groo spotted an oddly shaped least tern on the sand. Peering through her telephoto lens—safely distant from the birds, which are endangered in the state—Groo realized that two tiny hatchlings were nestled under the parent’s wings, a sight this wildlife photographer had never seen before. “People react to this image emotionally,” says Groo. “I call it the grumpy fish face, because so many people see that. They think it’s endearing.”

A headshot of photographer Melissa Groo

A conservation photographer, Groo has seen “some alarming drops in wildlife abundance,” particularly among songbirds. She’s also seen an explosion of interest in wildlife photography. “When people value having wildlife around as a way of feeding the soul and the eye,” she says, “they begin to care about not just the animal but the habitat it needs to survive.” All that interest, however, can stress animals if people aren’t careful. “We’re all putting pressure on these creatures,” says Groo, who teaches photographers to keep a safe distance and always put the welfare of animals ahead of getting a great photograph.


More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Keeping the Wild in Wildlife Photography »
Least Terns: Life on the Edge »
See Last Issue's Nature's Witness »

Get Involved

Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More
Regional Centers and Affiliates