Date: 9/10/19 12:46 pm
From: Brad Schram <gonebrdn...>
Subject: [slocobirding] Pismo Terns, Jaegers, Sabine's This Morning
Like Bob Chapman, I was at the beach (by Pismo Creek mouth) last
night--about 6pm--marveling at the tern show.  The angle of sun in my
face made identification of individuals impossible at the distance they
were feeding.  Although I thought most would be Elegant Terns, due to
the date, the size disparities made it clear that wasn't the case.  The
wind from the northwest created a mini-sandstorm all along the beach at
ankle height.  I see that Bob estimated 1000 to 1500 terns, I think
that's probably a conservative estimate.  Beyond them, well out, one
could see hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters arcing like Pterodroma petrels
in the stiff wind.

Hoping to add Arctic Tern to my five mile radius year list I arrived at
the shoreline at 7:56 this morning, armed with my spotting scope.  A
gentle breeze onshore greeted me, a clear bright morning. I sea-watched
until 10:56 with a brief break at about 9:30.

Although it seemed there were modestly fewer terns than yesterday
evening, ARCTIC and COMMON TERNS were feeding to within about 200 yards
of water's edge.  Due to their constant movement it was difficult to
keep track of a single bird, therefore the proportions of Common to
Arctic were hard to determine with any accuracy. Sometimes I thought
Common predominated, sometimes I thought Arctic.  About 10:30 things had
slowed down noticeably when I came across a raft of 50 + terns about 200
yards offshore.  They stayed long enough, preening and salt-water
bathing, to estimate that no more than 25-33% were Common Terns, the
rest Arctic.  ELEGANT TERNS were relatively few, as were FORSTER'S.  Not
looking for Forster's, one would have to drift through my image to be
noticed, but it didn't happen often.  There had to be 100s of Arctic,
and lesser numbers of Common Terns, just offshore, trending southerly
although they gyrated about in all directions.  Only two CASPIAN TERNS
were noticed, although 6-8 are regularly loafing with gulls onshore here
recently.  I kept hoping for a migrant Black Tern, to no avail.  By the
time I left, numbers had dropped dramatically.

As one would expect with hundreds of terns moving and feeding just
offshore at this date, jaegers were relatively common.  My count for the
morning:  39 PARASITIC JAEGERS; 25 POMARINE JAEGERS; 9 unidentified
jeagers due to distance or briefness of observation. One of the
Parasitics was a dark morph bird.  Sub-adult birds may have comprised
50% of the whole, but first year juvs were no more than 10% of those seen.

I was more surprised by the SABINE'S GULLS than the jaegers. Jaegers are
seen every fall, harassing Elegant Tern flocks here, but Sabine's Gulls
are seldom seen from shore in my experience.  During my watch I counted
39 Sabine's Gulls, nine of those were first year birds.  On a few
occasions an adult Sabine's would fly by just beyond the breakers, the
yellow bill tip clearly visible in the 'scope.

All the while, a background ribbon of SOOTY SHEARWATERS were passing
northward about one mile out.  They were constantly moving upcoast, not
massed as they are sometimes here.  Although I usually see one or more
Humpback Whales off this coast in fall when birds are massed, I saw none
this morning.

An interesting sidelight, typical here this fall.  During my three hours
on the beach not one shorebird of any species was either seen on the
beach or flying by.  No phalaropes were 'scoped outside, although
Red-necked have been regular in the Pismo Creek lagoon for the past ten
days or so.  No alcids or scoters were seen.

Brad Schram
Arroyo Grande



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