“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Day 244 - A Common-ish Tern

When I left the house this morning I was not really sure where to go on this foggy morning.  I decided Goleta Beach and arrived there well before the crowds of people were crawling all over the beach disturbing the birds.

One bird I am hoping to catch up soon is a Common Tern, which despite the name is not very common around here.  In each of the last couple of years I have found one here at Goleta Beach.  A problem for me is that I often have difficulty separating them from Forster's Terns, which are in fact much more common in these parts.

As I was checking out the gulls and terns on the beach a smaller tern landed nearby, and when I looked at it I thought it may well be a Common Tern.  I took a number of photos and did a bit of studying in my Field Guide but could not decide which species I thought it was.  Given that the bird was molting I found it even more confusing than usual.

Due to the miracle of modern technology I was able to send off the photos below to some of our local bird gurus.  There was a bit of back and forth but the consensus seemed to be a Forster's. (Thanks Nick and Wim!)  In non-breeding plumage the Forster's Tern has a black patch around the eye which does not extend around to the back of the neck.  You can see in the top photo the black is certainly darker around the bird's eye.  After arriving home and doing more research I also think the bird's legs are a bit longer, the bill is a bit fatter, and the head is a bit rounder than I would expect for a Common Tern.

Close, but not close enough.  Perhaps someday I will become more adept at this tricky ID.  Experience always helps and that's tough to get when you only see 1 Common Tern per year.

Forster's Tern

Forster's Tern, rear view

Also at the beach today:

Long-billed Curlew

After leaving Goleta Beach I rode out to the more western parts of Goleta, closely examining the rising kettles of Turkey Vultures.  This is something I do anyway - someday one of these will be a Black Vulture or Zone-tailed Hawk!  There has actually been a Black Vulture seen in Solvang (30 miles away) the last couple days so I was more interested than usual in checking out the vultures.  I was surprised at how many vultures I saw cruising around.  I was not surprised that they were all Turkey Vultures.  Someday ....

After today the year's total still stands at 242. 

Today I rode a total of 32.9 miles

More later,

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