Monday, May 7, 2012

Its the Tern's Turn!

Finally, it is the Terns turn for a post.  The trip to Rocky Point (or if you prefer, Puerto Penasco) resulted in many, many terns.  Not being an expert on Terns, the many terns flying over the water and then diving were beginning to be quite a challenge to me on identification.  When they are in flight it is difficult to closely observe the many finer points to assist in identification.  So I finally decided to start attempting photos of them in flight and of course that is not always the easiest task to accomplish.  After shooting many in-flight photos, I was finally able to observe some of the terns sitting on sand bars or on the ground which allowed for a bit easier and quicker identification.  Many of the in-flight photos were easier to ID once the photos were downloaded.  The easiest tern to ID was the small Least Tern and their courtship can be very entertaining to watch. One of them would be resting on the ground near the water while the other would fly out and catch a fish and bring it back to the other on the ground as an offering. In the photo below the bird that caught the fish has already given it to its mate and is just taking off again to try and catch another.  Least Terns are one of the smallest and characteristically have a yellow bill which makes them easiest to identify.  They tends to hover over the water more than other terns.

   Least Tern
From the smallest to the largest, the Caspian Tern is as large as some gulls.  They tend to fly high over the water and when they see a fish, they plunge head first into the water.  Note the black on the undersides of the primary feathers. 

Caspian Tern
Also seen in fairly large numbers were the Elegant Terns and this one was flying away with its catch.  Notice the different bill than the Caspian above.

Elegant Tern
And in the photo below, note the long bill, with no black tip and the different color pattern of the primaries compared to the Caspian Tern.

Elegant Tern
They also sport a fairly long crest that is not so visible in flight, but when perched on the ground it is more readily seen.

Elegant Tern
And finally the most common tern that I found in Rocky Point was Forster's Tern.  Below is a photo of an adult; notice the black tip to the bill and also the light gray upper body.

Forster's Tern
And there were many Forster's still in winter plumage, with a black bill and no complete black cap on the head.

Forster's Tern
Having not been around many terns before this visit to Rocky Point, I did have some difficulties in identifying these birds as they were flying.  Many did not get ID'd until I was able to process them after downloading.  I have a great respect for those that know terns well and maybe next time it will be a bit easier for me.  The terns themselves are awesome to watch.  Many dives into the surf for a fish and many times they come up with nothing.  There is no doubt that I most certainly want to pay another visit or two to Rocky Point.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gordon, nice Tern series. You've got some dynamite shots here (as always). It's funny you just put this post up now. I recently saw Least and Caspian Tern here in Phoenix which were firsts for me.

    I think I'd prefer to see them in Mexico though, that looks like a much nicer and cooler setting than the Recharge Ponds in west Phoenix. 4 tern species...nice work Gordon!