Friday, September 5, 2008

Maumee Bay SP terns and LBBG

In years past I've found early September to be a great time for studying terns at Maumee Bay State Park. Today (Friday Sept. 5) I visited and found about 300 terns resting on the beach there -- my estimates were roughly 160 Common Terns, 120 Forster's Terns, and 20 Caspian Terns. The opportunity to compare a lot of Forster's and Commons side by side makes it easier to recognize the species when we see smaller numbers of them separately. Right now there are still a few adult Commons that are mostly in breeding plumage, but most of the birds are in transitional plumages and showing a lot of variation. With the birds resting at close range, it's possible to check the identifications of odd individuals by considering their bill shapes, as the Common's bill is distinctly smaller and narrower, more attenuated toward the tip. When the birds get up and fly around (as happens periodically when they're disturbed), it's possible to study their flight patterns also. (While I was watching them today, all the terns took off at once, and out of the corner of my eye I saw two large dogs bounding down the beach; then I took a second look at realized that the "dogs" were White-tailed Deer!)

The flocks of gulls resting on the beaches and in the parking lots today (mostly Ring-billed, some Herring and Bonaparte's Gulls) included a single one-year-old Lesser Black-backed Gull in the 2nd lot back from the beach -- this species shows up more frequently in winter here. Along the water's edge on the beach were single juveniles of Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone. Brian Zwiebel had seen a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the grass near the beach a few days ago but I didn't see it today.

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