Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roseate Tern WBW

1. roseate tern-kab Common Tern 10-23-11 Gloucester, MA

(*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.

2. beach-kab View from the beach were we parked 10-23-11

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.

3.ROTE-kab 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.
4. ROTE-kab Suddenly the tern banked, then doubled back and decided to land.

5. ROTE-kab Tern landing on beach.

6. roseate-kab Then it surprised me by walking even closer to me!

7. Rose tern-kab 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.

8. Gloucester beach-kab Gloucester Harbor 10-23-11

9. Gloucester-kab Gloucester Harbor view from beach 10-23-11

10. gloucester-kabCommon Tern 10-23-11

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!)

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Thanks Springman!

11. ROTE-kab Common Tern in Gloucester, MA 10-23-11 

*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)
12. ROTE-kab 


  1. Great sequence of shots Kathie. I only got aerial shots of my Arctic Tern. It looks odd on the ground with those short legs, nowhere near as graceful as in the air.

  2. Arija, that is what surprised me also, those short legs! and it looks so funny when it waddles on them!

  3. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. What a great series of shots!

  5. I'm inclined to think you have ID'ed correctly Kathie, not that I now much about sea birds. I have studied this one however and think it may be a first year bird its beak isn't yet long enough to be adult and not quite the correct colour.

  6. Did this bird ever treat you well Kathie! You took good advantage of the opportunity. You never know when you'll make an important find, and with photographic proof, it's incontrovertible!

  7. I hope this turns out to be the Roseate. You really got great shots of the beauty.
    A meant to be encounter!

  8. Congrats Kathie! What a great sighting. The short legs do look funny. Wonderful photos! Have a great day and Happy Birding!

  9. Hi Kathie

    I am impressed, boy did you ever get close. This is a lovely series of images.


  10. Lovely shots of a beautiful bird!

  11. gorgeous shots!! CUTE little bird! i love how he's doing that PUFF up thing...trying to stay warm, huh?? YOU stay warm too!!

  12. Roy, well, it turns out I was wrong. apparently common terns can look like this at this time of year. Oh well. Live and learn!

    Springman, thanks for the encouragement, but I was wrong. Still learning and I always will be I'm sure.

    Thanks everyone else!

  13. Isn't the natural world a wonderful thing? There is always something new to learn. I personally think it is one of the things that makes it so engaging :)

  14. hey bJK, thank you for your visit and welcome to my blog!

    Celeste, you know I so agree!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.