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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