White-fronted Terns, Bribie Is, SEQ

To: birding-aus <>, Trevor Ford <>
Subject: White-fronted Terns, Bribie Is, SEQ
From: jilldening <>
Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2001 08:29:50 +1000
Hello Everyone,

My good friend, Trevor Ford, has been sweating over some commic terns
sometimes currently appearing at Buckley's Hole, Bribie Island. One day he
would think they were White-fronteds, another day they might be Commons,
because I raised doubts.  Possibly he was right each time, and the birds
were different - who knows? Trevor was pretty sure they were White-fronteds.
I had never before identified White-fronted Terns in non-breeding plumage.
Trevor told me to scrutinise the commics at Caloundra, but I just haven't
been getting any at all to scrutinise. Our home patches are about 30km
apart. Trevor has put in a few hours at Buckleys, since I kept planting
doubts and questions in his head (on the phone). So today we spent a
pleasurable hour together  with Kym, Trevor's wife, trying to put the matter
to bed.

On the sandbank at Buckleys we had a small flock of Crested Terns, about
four lesser Cresteds, a Caspian Tern with a metal leg band, and several
Gull-billed Terns in both breeding and non-breeding plumage. And two commic
terns. The sunshine was heavenly, with no wind, and the birds sat there
quietly as if they understood our mission. The tide kept pushing them
higher, and so we saw enough movement to give us a range of views.

It still wasn't easy. From long experience I know that any field guide
illustration of waders or terns is only ever going to depict a moment in the
plumage cycle of the bird; that it is constantly changing. We struggled over
these birds, discussing every scratch and preen, willing the birds to give
us a good look at the underwing. We both agreed that the bill was long and

I was running late for a meeting, and we parted without any definite
decision, but a resolve to get out our books and solve it over the phone,
which we have just done. Caution was the tone of the call, but in the end we
agreed that the commic terns just had to be White-fronteds, because the
bills were too long for Commons. In fact in the end, the question was really
whether they were Roseates or White-fronteds.

My golly these commic terns are hard. I need a lot more experience at
White-fronteds before I will be blasé about identifying them. Non-breeding
plumage is a nightmare for ID. In years to come I might look back on this
struggle and wonder what I was going on about, but right now, it's just



Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51'  152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994

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