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On the Caloundra sandbanks yesterday (13/2/03), as well as counting about
30,000 terns, we had another view of that Common Tern which caused me such
interest last month. It is as unlikely that there are two such birds, as it
is unlikely that there are two Laughing Gulls on Bribie - or so I see it.
We had views of the bird at fairly close proximity for about an hour. It was
a part of a flock of about 9000 birds, most of which were Commons. Because
the observation occurred between 5 and 6pm, because light was sharp and the
day was clear, we had excellent viewing conditions.
It is the same size and body shape as a Common Tern, as we know it. Here
are some finer details:
Same length as the Commons around it, although the colour at first leads one
to think it may be different. Lower mandible orange-red. Upper mandible had
a black line running along the cutting edge from base to tip. Base of upper
mandible orange-red, and the rest of the upper mandible was mottled black
and red. Inner mouth showed a lot of red.
Orange, as orange as a Victorian leg flag in some views, and in others they
seemed orange-red. Standing next to a Little Tern in breeding plumage, the
legs stood out as far more brilliantly coloured. Same length as Commons
Same shape as Common Terns around it.
Cap was slightly different, in that the eye was surrounded by black
feathering, so that the white upper and lower eyelids were prominent (?
pondered for a long time whether the white was bare parts or feather, but
decided they looked like eyelids). These were far more noticeable than in
other Commons. Black lores, leading upwards and into the rest of the cap
which started from a line above and in front of the eye. Cap was advanced of
non-breeding condition, but well short of breeding condition. In some views
it appeared that there was no black cap dip behind the ear coverts, and then
at other times, it was there, and depended upon the posture at the time. I
compared this with other Commons present and found it to be the case with
others, too. It's something I hadn't noticed before.
Mid-grey, as many other Commons present, and with a significant dark carpal
bar. At first observation the carpal bar appeared huge, but later after it
had been preening, and the scapulars covered it slightly, it looked definite
but normal. Tertials grey fringed with white, as per others present.
Outer primaries were fresh, indicating a bird poised to go into breeding
Wings extended beyond tail, same as other Commons present.
Can't think of anything else at the moment. How many times did we say,
"If only Bob Inglis were here with his camera"? Bob, I'm going out onto the
sandbanks at 2pm today for a media interview, if you happen to get this and
have time to come up the coast. Perhaps we could look for it afterwards. No
chance over the weekend. I'll be at uni until 1.30pm on 07 5430 2832.
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51' 152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994
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