Saturday, September 29, 2012


Morro Strand Beach - Weather, overcast, temperature mild, no wind, and few people; in other words, Perfect!  My desire was to hone my Tern identification skills.  As far as I am concerned, definitely not an easy task. My problem is sorting the Elegant Tern from the Royal Tern.

The Elegant is larger than the Royal, and its bill is more orange-red and thicker and less down-turned; even knowing this, when I look at a flock of Terns, they look alike, unless there is a larger Royal Tern (the bigger one) standing next to the smaller Elegant Tern. Recently, a very talented birder told me, if I am remembering correctly, to look at the eye. On the Elegant Tern the black touches the eye, whereas there is a slight space between the eye and the black on the Royal Tern. In the above photo the three Terns, to the rear, appear to have a slight space between the eye and the black, so they may be Royal Terns (I think). My Tern ID skills still need honing.

Included in this flock was a most unusual Tern, one with red legs (right center). Elegant and Royal Terns have black legs. Unfortunately, I only noticed it when reviewing my photos. The sleeping birds are Long-billed Curlew (rear), Heermann's Gull (front).

Enjoyed seeing an Black Oystercatcher among a flock of Heermann's Gull.  Other birds of note - small flock of Sanderling and thousands of Sandpiper with a sprinkling of Semipalmated Plover resting on the beach. While observing the sandpiper, a small raptor sped causing the sandpipers to rise into the air in several swirling masses; they swooped back and forth in tight circular motions, much like a school of fish fleeing a predator. Just hearing the sound of thousands of tiny synchronized wings was an unbelievable treat,

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