Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tern Tips + The Word from the Forest

Before my mind was clouded on Saturday with, um, pork, yeah, that's it, pork (beer had nothing to do with it, it was all the pig roast. . . ), I took some time at Cape May Point State Park to recalibrate on terns. If you don't get to look at them every day, and even if you do, Common (top) and Forster's Terns can be annoyingly similar. When you do see them regularly, you can get fancy and special and talk about the Common's more narrow-based wings, buoyant flight, smaller bill, rounder bottom. . . all true, but all relative. Less relative is grayness of adults in summer - Common's are, Forster's aren't, they're white. For perfect views, close photos, or in the hand, check out the pattern of the outer tail feathers of these two - Peter Pyle's I.D. Guide, Part II, has a great set of illustrations on page 717. Dark outer web on Common, dark innner web on Forster's. This Forster's, by the way, is a bit nasty in that the primaries are very worn, with little pale "bloom," and thus are showing about as dark as you see on the wingtip of this species. Compare the Forster's Terns in the "Worldless Wednesday" post below.

Both photos above were taken Saturday afternoon. Did you notice the color band on the Common's leg?

At the pig roast, Vince Elia commented to me that he drove through Belleplain the other day and heard not an Ovenbird - remember, I was clicking 80+ there in May (check the archive). Those OVEN's are still there, in fact more of them, since not only the adults are present but their young of the year, too. They're just quiet, and busy - molting. We banded 2 young-of-the-year Ovenbirds in Bear Swamp, Cumberland County today - not to mention a young Kentucky Warbler. We also caught an adult female Worm-eating Warbler with a brood patch showing no sign of receding - perhaps a bird involved with or recently finished with a second nesting. The adult Black-and-white Warbler pictured below was in heavy molt, a major reason why the forests are so quiet in late summer. Molting takes energy, lots of it.

This is not to say nothing's singing - we heard pretty much every expected species in full song from 5:30 a.m. to 5:45 a.m., including both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers. Then most everybody shut down, with only intermittent vocalizations thereafter.

[Sorry for the dark blurry phone-pic, but note the molt going on in this adult male Black-and-white Warbler's wing. The outer 3 primaries are worn and dull after a year's worth of use; the inner ones are new or still growing in. He's missing most of his wing coverts, too. Virtually all adult songbirds undergo a complete molt after breeding.]

[Feed me! Feed Me! Feed ME! Eastern Kingbird fledglings beg from their parent (second from left) along Bayshore Road Saturday.]

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