Saturday, July 12, 2014

Forster's Tern

Forster's Tern
Forster's Tern. Imperial Beach, California. July 4, 2014. Greg Gillson.
I visited San Diego Bay NWR last week. Both 7th and 13th streets in Imperial Beach dead end into the south end of San Diego Bay. From there a bike path encircles the south bay. About a half mile (or more) out into the salt marsh on the sand flats was a huge nesting colony of terns. Most (8000+) appeared to be Elegant Terns, but there were some Caspian, Royal, Gull-billed, Least, and Forster's terns too. And a couple hundred Black Skimmers were about.

Most of the birds were far away across the heat-shimmering shallow ponds. Many of the terns were commuting out to the anchovies in the ocean across the narrow Silver Strand Beach to the west. The Forster's Terns, however, were hunting along the shore of the bay. Such was the one photographed above as it flew over me, back-lit in the harsh sun.

Many people say "Forester's," but this is not correct. In 1834 this tern was named by Thomas Nuttall after Johann R. Forster, a German naturalist who accompanied Cook in his second voyage around the world in 1772.