Terns, Barn Swallows, et al., Ocean Beach sea watch, 1/10/16

Paul Saraceni

Sunday morning (7:45-11:15) I did a sea watch from the south end of the Great Highway. Winds were out of the E-SE, seas were smooth but there were big swells and waves close to shore, skies were mostly overcast, and visibility was very good. Ken Schneider was present when I arrived and we combined forces until Ken left after an hour or so.

We observed 5 FORSTER'S TERNS (3/1/1) about 1/2 way to the horizon and beyond, all moving N.  As I noted in a previous post when I observed this species during the CBC, we typically do not see these terns off of Ocean Beach in the winter, as they seem to prefer to stay in the Bay.

We observed a nice movement of BONAPARTE'S GULLS (72 total), including a pulse line of 70 flying N out near the horizon.

I observed a single ANCIENT MURRELET flying S.

After Ken departed, around 9:45 AM, I scoped a mid-size tern flying N about 1/2 way to the horizon. It was larger and a heavier flier than the previously-observed Forster's Terns, with pale gray upperparts, mostly white underwings, and a shallow-forked tail. It did not give the large impression of a Caspian Tern and did not show the significant amount of black under the primaries that a Caspian should show. Size, structure, and plumage looked good for ROYAL or ELEGANT but I will leave it as Royal/Elegant Tern sp. as I was not able to get a good study of the bill; as between the 2 species, probability at this time of year favors Royal, even though that species is very rare for Northern California, though several have been recently observed from this sea watch on 1/2 and recently at Ano Nuevo in San Mateo Co.

At 10:50 AM I observed 2 BARN SWALLOWS flying N together just below the bluff.

Other observations of local interest during the sea watch:

Surf Scoter 90+
Black Scoter 5 m.,3 f.
Com. Loon 2
Pacific Loon 3
Red-thr. Loon 40+
Brown Pelican 30+
Pelagic Cormorant 1
Marbled Godwit 3
Whimbrel 3
Sanderling 350+
Heermann's Gull 130+
Thayer's Gull 3
Also: Harbor Porpoise 1

Paul Saraceni
San Francisco

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