Tuesday, July 22, 2014

San Diego Year Bird #234: Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern. Imperial Beach, California. July 4, 2014. Greg Gillson.
One of my target species at Imperial Beach two weeks ago was Gull-billed Tern. Among the many thousand terns were a few Gull-billed, including one close enough for photographs.

I've only seen Gull-billed Tern 5 previous times. The first was in 1978. Our family was visiting relatives in Long Beach, California. My dad and I drove over from there and spent a long day at the Salton Sea. I photographed a Gull-billed Tern flying by at Salton City, very similar to this one. I was shooting slide film at the time. In one of my recent moves I decided I didn't need all those slides. The photos were not as good in those days as is possible now, and converting to digital just didn't make sense. I'd been hauling that box of slides around for years. Dumping them seemed logical. Copies of any rare bird slides had been given to the Records Committee, so any noteworthy documentation was saved that way. I don't think I made a mistake.

Marlene and I lived in Ventura, California from late 1979 through 1984. I saw more Gull-billed Terns at the Salton Sea in 1982 and 1983.

Tim Shelmerdine, David Smith, and I traveled together to North Carolina in 2005 to attend a couple of pelagic birding trips from Manteo with Brian Patteson. I spotted Gull-billed Terns from the ferry to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks.

Marlene and I, and daughter Leslie and husband Daniel flew from Portland to Phoenix and drove 5 hours to My sister's home in Puerto PeƱasco (Rocky Point), Sonora, Mexico for my niece's wedding in 2007. While there I also spotted Gull-billed Tern.

This tern has more leisurely flight than most other southern California terns (Least, Common, Caspian, Royal, and Elegant). It is perhaps even more relaxed in flight than Black and Forster's Terns. I hope to see it more regularly now.