A Travellerspoint blog

Last birding adventure of my junior year

sunny 69 °F

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18 — still way behind in posting but doing my best to catch up.

Today was my last chance to go birding in New York state before summer since tomorrow is graduation for Tian and the following early morning we depart. So, I decided to pursue a would-be life bird that I have not been able to chase in previous years due to the semester ending too early: Roseate Tern. Of all of the tern species that breed on Long Island, Roseate is probably the least common, but the one “semi-reliable” place to get them starting in mid/late May is Nickerson Beach (where I got my Snowy Owl this winter).

So, I arrived at the beach before 9am and immediately starting scanning. Nickerson is home to a massive nesting tern colony that holds predominately Common Terns, but also includes Least Terns & Black Skimmers, a couple of Gull-billed Terns, and a pair of two of Roseate Terns, my target species. Roseate Terns are Common Tern look-alikes but they have longer tails, pure white underparts, and usually the birds around New York lack any red on their black bills. My first two birds that flew over were a good one: GULL-BILLED TERN, one of the rarer tern species around here! Note their stubby black bills and short tails, barely discernible in this horrible ID shot.

The BLACK SKIMMERS are back!


Another fantastic tern species for the area, a pair of ROYAL TERNS, flew by — though they were not my target birds:

There may have been one or two SANDERLING…


COMMON TERNS, along with the Skimmers, form the bulk of the resident nesting colony, and this pair was mating.

Mixture of the two common species. I spent hours squinting into my viewfinder trying to pick out any stray Roseate that may be in the flock.

A distant OSPREY:

I loved seeing this (albeit distant) RED KNOT as I do knot get to see them in breeding plumage all that often! :)

This darker-billed Common Tern fooled me a bit for a possible Roseate but Simon Tolzmann later informed me it’s definitely a Common as the tail doesn’t extend past the wings at rest. Good to know — these two species are very much look-alikes so discerning this in the field can be tough in certain light conditions.


Lots of terns overhead.

And a nice portrait of a Common Tern before I had to leave, unfortunately empty-handed in terms of Roseate Terns. I didn’t do too bad in the tern department as Royal Terns, my bird-of-the-day, were flagged as rare, and it was fantastic to see one of my favorites the Gull-billed Tern as well. You win some, you lose some!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1130 Species

Posted by skwclar 11:53 Archived in USA

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You had another great day. The migration is winding down around here.

by Bruce Bartel

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