Thursday, July 18, 2013 TWO Caspian Terns!

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report

Sunrise 5:07 am, sunset 10:59 pm, for a total length of day of 17 hours, 52 minutes. Tomorrow will be 4 minutes and 5 seconds shorter.

Heat wave! (at least for Seward) The temp hit 80ยบ at 1 pm today! HOT! In addition to the usual kayak groups at Lowell Point, a couple of paddle boarders appeared including lassies in bikinis, a very rare sight indeed, and several people even went swimming in the sparkling ocean. It looked like a California beach. Crazy!

Later in the afternoon, during a sudden and very brief episode of gray clouds and sprinkles, I refound the CASPIAN TERN. Actually there were two! They obliged me this time by flying quite close, circling overhead while I madly clicked the shutter, and one even vocalized, a very harsh sound. I could even see their black feet tucked up and the short notched tail. As the largest tern in the world, they looked huge compared to the slender, graceful, and buoyant Arctic Terns, and their large red bill almost looks fake. Lipstick?

The Alaska Seabird Information Series by the USFWS (Google it) has a lot of information on this tern including:
4 ½' wing span, males and females look alike, reclassified in 2006 from the genus Sterna to its own genus Hydroprogne due to genetic sequencing analysis, populations in North America and globally are of Low Concern. This tern is found on every continent except South America and Antarctica.

Ed Clark noted that Caspian Terns are becoming more common along South-coastal Alaska but are still considered rare statewide. Furthermore, the first nesting pairs of Caspian Terns were documented by Aaron Lang's inlaws near Cordova. Aaron had an article a few years ago in the journal "Western Birds" about the Caspian Terns' nesting and distribution.

Caspian terns were reported at Vitus Lake and Seal River near the Bering Glacier in 2002 and 2003. I did not find any there in 2007, but I did not have access to a boat to reach the rumored colony.

This is a bird to look for anywhere around Resurrection Bay. Check those gulls closely!

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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