Friday, May 24, 2013

Royalty Gets a Tern

We get more Terns in Arizona than one might expect, or at least when I was first starting to pay attention to birds, I was surprised by the number of different species. In the spring and early summer months, Caspian and Forster's Terns are a fairly common site at some of the larger Maricopa County water features. Least Terns are annual as well, though uncommon, and have even established a few breeding pairs in Phoenix in the last couple of years.
So, with my wife and I visiting the Tern-rich Florida Gulf Coast in May, I wasn't dumbstruck at the prospect of seeing many of these elegant birds, but I was still looking forward to terning over a new leaf. Brown Pelicans turn up in Phoenix as well and don't have quite the same aerial ethos as the Terns, but there's no more quintessential sight at the beach than the Pelican patrol.


As expected, I saw Caspian, Common, and Least Terns flying off-shore along the gulf beaches. I was bummed to miss Sandwich Terns while in the area, but very pleased to find some nice Royal Tern repositories, even if the specimens were all suffering from May-pattern baldness.


Fairly large, fairly rude, and rarely found away from the oceanic coasts--no records in Arizona in the last ten years--these Terns live up to their names, even when they're not in breeding plumage.


Their aerial acrobatics were predictably (though not boringly) impressive, but the best place to study and photograph these birds was near the 5th street peer in Naples. With the constant presence of fisherman on the peer, these birds had lost their fear of man, or at least would swallow their anxiety if it also included the possibility of swallowing discarded fish pieces.


It was pretty cloudy in the evening when Maria and I visited the peer, so I didn't come away with nifty Tern flight shots. This photo of a bug-eyed beauty is plenty nice though, even regal.
One can sense the haughtiness in this bird's demeanor. "Bow to me, and bring gifts of fish!"
Royalty...


And for some real eye candy, here's my wifey at the docks. 

15 comments:

  1. Love that last picture...FULLY crushed.

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    1. Cheers Seagull. With full bombast and pomp I heartily agree. Crushed!

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  2. Nice post, Laurence. It's always fun to vicariously experience birds not often seen in one's typical birding spots. Hope your knee is getting better.

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    1. Thanks Jeff,

      I guess the summer isn't exactly beckoning your visit to Phoenix, but I'm looking forward to that time. Unfortunately the news with the knee seems to be getting progressively worse, but there's plenty more of Florida to come, even if Arizona has to wait : )

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  3. I love the Terns, one of my favorites birds! Great shots and a pretty shot of your wife. Have a great weekend and happy birding!

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  4. Royals do love posing for the camera! Great shots!!

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    1. Royalty is as Royalty does of course : )

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  5. The Royal Terns can have all the fish gifts from the ocean, but not really because there aren't enough fish in the sea. I live in a coastal state and I think you see terns more often than I do, but I generally make a point of avoiding the coast due to traffic. Realizing I should get down there soon, but as the rebuilding post-Sandy continues it feels tacky. I contemplated going on Monday, but realized that would be the Worst. Idea. Ever.

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    1. Way to pump the breaks there! Yes, Memorial Day birding on the beach would be terrible--you'd be lucky to pull Laughing Gulls.

      That being said, I've found beach birding, when given the opportunity, to be very very satisfactory. There's plenty of light and the birds tend to be not at all shy. Sure, the habitat (sandy shoreline) gets old pretty quickly, but there are other things to look for and a great possibility of picking up something rare.
      After the most recent weather blights in that area, the birding will be exceptional I think, if you can make it on Tuesday or something.
      Cheers!

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    2. The drive back from coastal points usually doubles during the summer unless one travels at really random hours. (Like drive down in the afternoon - except Friday - and drive home in the morning). For instance my birding today was all done on foot to avoid traffic and parades.

      That being said, I might go Friday - it's my next free day as I work Tuesday-Thursday this week.

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    3. The drive back from coastal points usually doubles during the summer unless one travels at really random hours. (Like drive down in the afternoon - except Friday - and drive home in the morning). For instance my birding today was all done on foot to avoid traffic and parades.

      That being said, I might go Friday - it's my next free day as I work Tuesday-Thursday this week.

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  6. Tern feet are pretty neato, thanks for making me realize that.

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    1. My pleasure. These fellow all seemed to have pigment deficiencies too, for a sort of ti-dye effect.

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  7. I am enjoying these pictures of all these birds so much! They are all so unique and I love the picture of Maria with the sunglasses on.

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