A Travellerspoint blog

Lake watching...from the other side!

Benton Harbor, MI

overcast 65 °F

Today my mom was playing in a chamber music concert in St Joseph, MI so I tagged along in order to try out some lake-watching from the other side of the lake. As well as more common species like Forster’s Terns & Bonaparte’s Gulls, rarities are always possible like Parasitic & Long-tailed Jaeger, or Sabine’s & Little Gulls.

I was birding Tiscornia Park on the Benton Harbor side by about 3:45pm to keep a keen eye on anything interesting that may have been winging its way south along the Michigan side of the lake. The usual suspects were around like this young HERRING GULL:

I immediately noticed a good number of Sterna species terns (so, Forster’s and Common) flying by. Here are FORSTER’S, told by their long tails, pale undersides, silvery primaries, and, in this basic plumage, a single black patch just behind the eye.

SANDERLINGS were the only shorebird present today and they were in good numbers:

A few BONAPARTE’S GULLS loafed about with the more common species for a while:

The other Sterna species was also present, in smaller numbers than the Forster’s: COMMON TERNS, told specifically in this case by their black (as opposed to silvery) primaries. The basic plumage is also slightly different with, instead of a black spot behind the eye, a black “hood” around the back of the head.

The two types roosted together, providing nice side-by-side comparison of two easily-confused species. Only some of the Commons were left in alternate (breeding) plumage) with a full black cap, with the rest of the birds being a mixture of Common and Forster’s in basic (nonbreeding plumage). See if you can tell the difference between the black patch of the Forster’s and the black hood of the Common. Personally, I think the nonbreeding Forster’s is a more sleek, elegant-looking bird.

One of my favorite mammals, the Thirteen-lined Ground-Squirrel was there to greet me in the dunes — cool!

Nothing unexpected today, but certainly nice to get a change from putting around Chicago. Bird-of-the-day to the Common & Forster’s Terns since today was some great practice in differentiating these two similar species.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1119 Species

Posted by skwclar 22:08 Archived in USA

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The Forster's tern in elegant! It reminds me of the Concorde jet in the beautiful sleekness of its design.The Michigan side of the lake is so different from Chicago-and so stunning!

by liz cifani

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