Saturday, May 27, 2017

Shark River Inlet 5/27--Piping Plover, ROSEATE TERN

Piping Plover
We know a birder who likes nothing more than to sort through large flocks of gulls or terns, looking for the odd bird sitting amidst the hundreds of standard issue larus or sterna species. He has the sitzfleisch to do this (though of course, he's standing all the while) in the wind, rain, heat, and even pleasant weather. It is amazing what he finds and what he found a couple of days ago at the Shark River Inlet would be lifer for Shari & me. (Again, for Mike, only a state bird.)

We motored back down the parkway (again the traffic gods smiled upon us) first making a stop in Ocean Grove, hoping to get the Purple Gallinule for Shari & Mike, but, unfortunately, it wasn't strutting in any of the front gardens along Webb Avenue. It was probably under some bushes but after a 15 minute search we decided to head down the beach about two miles to Belmar.

We almost never go to Belmar after the winter season, because the ducks, loons, grebes, alcids, and gannets are gone and the beaches are full of people. There is, however, a large tern colony on the beach on the south side of the inlet that we weren't aware of. It is mostly nesting Common Terns, Least Terns and Black Skimmers (actually, I think the skimmers are just roosting there), but within those flocks a couple of ROSEATE TERNS have been found. Roseate Tern looks very much like a Common or Forster's Tern, except that it's bill is black, and, if you're lucky, you might see some blush on its breast. Flight pattern is different but in a big flock of terns, picking out a bird with stiffer wing beats (and you decided what "stiffer" means) can be a challenge.

We got on to the beach, started to approach the colony and a few birds lifted into the air. Shari immediately called out that one had a black beak. Amazingly, I got on the bird instantly and indeed, it did have a black cap with a black beak, was about the same size as the commons and that was the bird. It landed just behind a rise in the sand. We never found it again.

We looked at, I swear, each and every of the more than 100 Common Terns on that beach and never found the Roseate again. However, while looking the tern, I did spot a Piping Plover just inside the protected area. It too disappeared into some beach grass and was never seen again, but at least I was able to get one distant shot of it.

So the Roseate Tern, while seen clearly and well, still ranks as if not a BVD than an LVD (Longer View Desired) bird.

As an extra, special bonus for Shari there were oystercatchers on the beach and the cherry on top was that they had chicks--we saw three balls of fuzz running around and under the parents.

It was an excellent day of birding all around (3 counties, 60+ species) bookended with turkeys gobbling on the lawn and waking us and a whippoorwill calling constantly as we go to sleep.
Least Tern

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