Caspian Terns with Gulls and Common Terns

The massive size of these Caspian Terns can only be appreciated when you see them in comparison with the "normal sized" terns in our area (Common Terns, Roseate Terns, Forster's Terns, Arctic Terns, and even smaller Least Terns and Black Terns). It is also much easier to judge relative size when the birds are standing on the ground rather than flying.

Caspian Terns Common Terns and Various Gulls
 I had a very hard time finding photos that included both large and small terns on the web (although there must be thousands of them), and these are even better because of all the gulls in the group.  Check out the Caspian Tern on the far left that is looking straight up in the air!

Caspian Tern vs Common Tern
This is a closeup of the previous photo.  To me, the Caspian Terns look 4 times the size of Common Terns, which is about right.  The Caspian Tern's wingspan of 4.5 feet is almost twice the Common Tern's 2.5 foot wingspan, but the Caspian Tern weighs about 5 times what a Common Tern weighs.  Overall, the Caspian Tern is about 4X larger than the terns we are accustomed to seeing here in Massachusetts.

Gulls and Terns
Caspian Terns are larger than Laughing Gulls and larger than Ring-billed Gulls.  They are supersized terns, and I think they're super cool birds!


Caspian Tern: A Rare Birdathon Sighting!

See the tern in the above photo that looks even bigger than a gull?  As it turns out, he is bigger than some gulls.  That is a Caspian Tern.  The sighting of a Caspian Tern was one of the the most notable observations of this years Birdathon.

Caspian Terns are very large birds; the largest of the tern species.  They have thick, heavy orange bills with black tips, black wingtips, white undersides, short tail, and black legs and feet.

It is very exciting to have captured photos of TWO very rare species seen during Birdathon 2010 (Marbled Godwit and Caspian Tern).  Unfortunately, our team didn't get credit for seeing Caspian Tern.  We didn't actually "see" a Caspian Tern during birdathon.  I only noticed them when looking at Tom's photos days later.  Luckily, there was one other sighting at Duxbury Beach (which is adjacent to where we were birding).  Can you find two Caspian Terns in the group above?


Marbled Godwit: A Very Special Bird!

Marbled Godwits are NEVER seen in Massachusetts at this time of year.  Tom captured dozens of photos of this bird, but I probably would never have been able to identify the species on my own.  Luckily, we met a member of the IBA (Important Bird Area) Birdathon team on the beach, and he told us what we had found. 

Despite his very distinctive features (a very long, upturned, orange and black bill, for example!), I would not have confirmed the ID of a bird that wasn't even on my list of target species.  (Target species are unexpected but recently sighted birds in your assigned area).

Marbled Godwits are more than unexpected around here in the month of May. Marbled Godwits are unheard of in Massachusetts during May.  Why? 

Marbled Godwits breed in the northern Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. In May, they are seen migrating over the central states in large flocks.  Massachusetts is nowhere near their springtime migratory route.

You occasionally see Marbled Godwits in the fall, if they get blown off course as they head for their winter homes along southern coastlines from North Carolina to Central America. But according to an expert source, there have been only three or four sighting of Marbled Godwits in Massachusetts during May in all of history!

We were very lucky to catch a glimpse of such a rarity - and luckier still that an experienced birder was present that day to ID the species for us.  After all, it required an expert to know it wasn't a Hudsonian Godwit (black wing linings seen in flight) or a Bar-tailed Godwit (brick red underparts and a striped black tail).  The Marbled Godwit is similar to these birds, but can be identified by it's cinnamon wing linings and paler underparts.

To tell you the truth, seeing a Marbled Godwit was really quite a thrill!


Newborn Goslings and Nesting Osprey

canada gosling birdathon
A beautiful Canada Goose gosling. Seen at Daniel Webster Audubon Sanctuary in Marshfield, MA during Birdathon 2010 (5/15/2010).

gosling trying to fly
The little guy on the right was flapping his arm as if he wanted to fly away!

canada goose birdathon
A VERY close shot of mother goose.

We saw this Osprey at Daniel Webster, as well. But earlier in the day we had seen an occupied Osprey nest at Plymouth Beach!

osprey nest
Tom took dozens of photos, but it is very hard to see the Osprey in the nest in any one. This is probably the best, but view the picture LARGE or ORIGINAL on Flickr to get a good view.


Purple Martin, Brant, Yellow Warbler, Piping Plover, etc.

brant landing

Birdathon moments included my first ever sighting of a Brant (a kind of goose). It was very exciting . . . for a little while, anyway.


They have very pretty patterns all over. They are nice birds. But geese just aren't terribly exciting. I have way too many photos of Brants!

purple martin birdathon

A very funny view of a Purple Martin. They seem to be as aggressive as he looks - they did a lot of fighting with each other!

yellow warbler birdathon

Tom captured these awesome shots of a happy looking Yellow Warbler in front of the Pilgrim Sands hotel at Plymouth Beach.

yellow warbler 2 birdathon

Another great shot of the Yellow Warbler in the sunshine.

running piping plover

I had to include another of Tom's outstanding Piping Plover images, too!


Bird-A-Thon Pictures!

piping plover 2
Piping Plover at Plymouth Beach.  Endangered Species.
Bird-a-thon was awesome!  It was insane and exhausting, but also fun and rewarding. Our little team of four netted 52 different bird species. I suspect that is on the low side for really enthusiastic birders, but I thought we did an outstanding job. Tom took all of these pictures, and every one of them is outstanding, too. We even saw Piping Plovers, a lifer for me, I think. They are cute, adorable, and endangered.  (BTW, you should view these pictures LARGE or ORIGINAL size at Flickr.  They are really that good!)

Willet on Plymouth Beach.

Mid-day Saturday was shorebirds at Plymouth Beach. This is a Willet. Willets are large shorebirds, speckled gray-brown with a long straight bill. Willets look quite nondescript on the ground, but once in flight or even with wings spread out, they are distinguished by their striking black-and-white color pattern.

Common Tern in Flight

We saw four different species of terns in Plymouth! Four! This beauty is a Common Tern, which is not at all common as far as I'm concerned.

Laughing Gull
Laughing Gull, May 15 2010

All four of Massachusetts' gulls were well represented, too. I couldn't resist this shot of a laughing gull.

Marbled Godwit

I wanted a Yellowlegs, but I got a Godwit. I actually failed to see more than a couple of my target species, but seeing a Marbled Godwit in the spring is quite rare, or so I've been told. Pete and I saw this guy on Saturday. A birder from another Bird-A-Thon team gave us the ID and the info on this species. If he hadn't, I'd still be looking through field guides!

More to come later on. Thanks especially to BirdingGirl (my cousin and inspirational fellow blogger!) for joining our Birdathon team and taking us birding in Bridgewater Friday evening!



Birding and Breakfast at Broadmoor!


I hope that every mother had a Happy Mother’s Day, and I hope that every child enjoyed celebrating Mother’s day! I had a picture-perfect Mother’s day celebration myself, and even got pictures of brand new baby ducklings with their mother.  My family took me to “Birding and Breakfast” at Broadmoor again, and this year was even better than before!

Seeing baby ducklings was a plus, but it was hardly the only  highlight of the day.  We saw Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Robins building a nest, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Towhees, a Blue- winged Warbler, a mockingbird, a glorious Red-breasted Grosbeak in full song, a dozen red-winged blackbirds, a brown headed cowbird, a Flicker in the treetops, a Great-crested Flycatcher, and an Eastern Phoebe.  All that in addition to the big flock of ring-billed gulls (a rarity at that site), the nesting Canada Geese, and the most beautiful assortment of Painted turtles you’ll ever see.
baby ducklings mothers day

After birding was breakfast of homemade pancakes and homemade syrup.  Yum.  Then I guilted my husband into buying me a Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas for a Mother’s day gift.  And when we arrived at home I received yet another mother’s day gift!  My lovely daughter had three gorgeous summer tops all wrapped in pretty paper and ribbons waiting for me!

I had a perfect day, despite the trauma and anxiety of the past two weeks.  A big thank you to my husband and kids, and a sincere wish that everyone else ended the day feeling wonderful, too.