Posts Tagged ‘Roseate Tern’

31st July – Falkner Island, Guilford

August 4, 2017

Click on images for Hi-res versions

On July 28th  two tern researchers, Cedric Duhalde and Alex Heuschkel, discovered CT’s second Bridled Tern, on Falkner’s Island, 3.5 miles off Guilford, CT in Long Island Sound. They quickly posted info on their discovery and allowed birders to mobilize themselves.

The first record, also on Falkner’s Island, was 25 years previous and untwitchable. So this was essentially a second bite of the cherry for everyone. The problem is that the island is off-limits due to nesting terns, specifically endangered Roseate Terns, so it would be a boat-only jaunt, made more difficult because I don’t have a boat! Nick Bonomo has a boat, and together with his girlfriend, they decided to make a dash for it the same evening, pitting his luck against fading light, wind and the unpredictable nature of nature. His story can be found here.

None of CT’s top listers, with a fervor for new state birds, knew of anyone with a boat, so I decided the only way to see it would be to find a boat in Guilford and organize it myself. After calling around and coming up empty on the charter front, the bird was not seen at all on Sunday, so I went about my business and resigned myself to tackling other issues in life. However, that changed on Monday 31st July at 7:15 am, when Capt Lou returned my message and said he was interested in taking people out and he could go that night. That’s great, but with no positive report, I was about to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”, when I get a text:  “Bridled’s back on the jetty!”.  Game on!!

I had several birders keen to go out if I found a boat, so on the way to work, I texted them all to say I knew a man with a boat and Roy Harvey, Frank Gallo, Dave Provencher and Greg Hanisek were to meet me at the Guilford town dock at 4:30pm.

On the way to the dock, it transpired that some webs of allegiances were being spun and, with the potential for conflicts bubbling just under the surface, it started to go all Game of Thrones.

Suddenly, people interested in being on the only organized charter  – and who had been allocated a spot – had already apparently found a boat, been out there that same morning and ticked it – all before we had even arrived at the dock. Of course, having “friends with boat benefits” was obviously at play here, and now filling that slot last minute on our charter with overflow people was easy, but more delicate because I had more friends than seats. People with boats – who weren’t going, or had gone already – were now going again, and people who had boats -who had offered to split costs with passengers, but couldn’t sail on a particular day – were now gripped off when those same passengers found passage on another “friend’s” boat. Some birders even “forgot” they were part of a work party that actually had permission to land ON THE ISLAND that you weren’t actually allowed to land on!

Capt Lou was enthusiastic and interested and soon we were off. A text from one observer alerted us to the fact that the bird was there, but had been flushed by a Peregrine and was not present! Flushed is better than eaten, but it dialed-up the anxiety meter a tad! It didn’t take long to get there, and the evening was calm with blue skies – a wonderful evening on the water.

Watching the bird! It is visible in the picture just below and to the right of the lighthouse.

We anchored in position and started scanning. I moved up to the bow, and was scanning when the bird suddenly appeared in front of me, winging- in from the right. “Here it is!!” The bird made a beeline for the rocks and settled in place, allowing for brilliant views over the next 40 mins! Reeeesssuult!!

Adult Bridled Tern, Falkner Is., CT July

Luckily, on the one pass, it allowed a few shots in flight. The white bleeding onto the primary bases is different from Sooty Tern and useful in flight when head pattern may be hard to discern.

With several of us having chartered a boat to a spot that had previously been “off-limits”, suddenly the bird was twitchable for the masses, remaining faithful to the rocks and jetty on the west end of the island and was subsequently seen by many people over the next few days.

Roseate Tern. A worn individual and not immediately an easy id. Note worn, blackish outer primaries contrasting with greyer inners and long outer tail feathers lacking any dusky grey on the inner/outer webs.

Roseate Tern, Falkner Island, CT. Note white impression, especially of the underparts, long pointed and all white tail. The bill is half black, typical of many breeding birds, but will wear characteristically darker as the season progresses. The pink flush that gives them their name is quickly worn off due to the rigors of breeding.

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Roseate Terns

August 19, 2012

After a couple of sporadic seasons, the tern colony at Sandy point is bustling with activity with a good post-breeding flock in evidence. It is this time of year that Roseate Terns can be found hanging out with the local Common Terns. They are an uncommon breeder in CT, and many of the coastal Roseate records relate to wandering adults from breeding colonies at Faulkner Island in Long island Sound.

One of the challenges can be picking out these uncommon visitors from the masses of similar looking Common Terns. Simply put, Roseate’s are slightly bigger, ‘whiter’ with a longer, more tapered bill that is often (but not always) blackish. Since many adult Common Terns are acquiring a darker, more blackish bill now as they begin their moult to winter plumage, bill color may be of limited use when trying to pick out a Roseate.  The masses of Common Terns can often mask the other more subtle features and make picking out a Roseate a little more difficult, especially if birds are distant.

Adult Roseate Tern and Common, Sandy Point, West Haven, August 2012 (Julian Hough).

One of the best ways of locating an adult Roseate Tern is to look at the wingtips of sitting birds. Common Terns have mostly dark, worn blackish primaries. Adult Roseate’s often show a very pale and contrasting panel on the inner primaries that contrast with the dark outer webs. Once you find a bird exhibiting this feature, you can check other features listed above.

Wingtips in Common and Roseate Tern.
Note pale, contrasting primary panel on Roseate. This is due to most of primaries being pale grey with white fringes. Longer tail streamers extending past tail often obvious.

Some Roseate’s in breeding plumage develop a red base to the bill that can be extensive and can be similar to Common Tern. Typically the dark is more extensive and the division between red and black is less clear cut on Roseate, but they can retain this into August, so not every Roseate will have a blackish bill. The gonydeal angle of the bill on Roseate is closer to the base of the bill which results in a more fine-tapered bill.

Adult Roseate Tern (Julian Hough). Note bill is quite red on this bird. Also, note that the dark trailing edge often obvious on Common Tern is reduced in Roseate due to the pale fringes of most of the outer primaries. Also, the dark outer web of the outer tail feathers on Common tern is absent on Roseate Tern.

Roseate’s have tail streamers that project beyond the tail, a result of them having shorter wings than Common Tern rather than longer tail streamers. Their flight manner is different with shallow, rapid wingbeats. Their call is a Semipalmated Plover-like “chuwit”, quite distinctive once learned.