(*See 11-3-11 Update below)
On October 23rd I took my friend Kathryn to Gloucester, Massachusetts. The weather was brisk and chill with a lid of leaden clouds hanging over the land. Out to sea the edge of the lid was sometimes visible, with blue skies sparkling beyond our reach, but here on the beaches of Gloucester gray skies prevailed. After walking the seawall along the Fisherman’s Memorial we drove to Dunkin Donuts for a restroom break and a hot cup of tea. Taking our tea we drove back towards the beach but parked around the corner from Fisherman’s Memorial in a factory type building’s parking lot.
Here we could sit out of the wind, warm inside my car, yet still watch the birds and see the harbor. The warm tea tasted so good after being outside in the cold, salty air.
Suddenly from over the gray water a smaller bird came bouncing along, wingbeats stiff; flight rapid. Though colored like a gull, it was quickly apparent that it wasn’t. After viewing the bird through bins from within the car, I jumped out with camera in hand and started photographing. The bird dived into the water a couple of times, then continued its flight up and down the beach.
After walking into the lee of this rock formation, it paused and cocked its head. “Have you had a good enough look yet?” it seemed to say.
According to the bird guides I checked, this tern really shouldn’t be here at this time of year and in this plumage. eBird flagged it on my list and I am awaiting confirmation from them that I have the I.D. correct, but from all I can find, this is the only tern with a black beak and red feet with a bouncy flight. All the bird guides say that it is our palest tern, but these in these photos it appears quite dark. I can only say that it was a gray day and I had my camera set at a negative 3 exposure compensation, which made everything appear a bit darker and richer colored than it actually was. I will update this post when I get confirmation, but for now, I’m saying it is a *Roseate Tern! (Any additional information and all opposing views are gratefully welcomed and accepted!)
Click on button to see more birds from around the globe!
*Update 11-3-11: I received and email from Jeremiah Trimble of Harvard University, eBird's regional reviewer. He informed me that this is, in fact, a Common Tern. He says the dark bill is typical for this time of year and the darkish gray mantle and black edges to the retrices all point to it being a Common Tern. So, I learned something new, though I will tell you what I told him, none of the bird guides I consulted showed a Common Tern with a full black cap and a black bill. I am thankful for the education, for how can I ever become a better birder if someone does not point theses things out! I am sure glad I was able to get so many photos and so close up! I have changed the name here and corrected my record in eBird.
So, what are Retrices? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, they are any of the long tail feathers important in controlling flight direction. You can see what he is talking about if you look at the 5th photo from the top where the tern is seen from the back with its tail spread for a landing. Now I've REALLY learned something new!
(Additional views for identification purposes.All photos click to enlarge)