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!"

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