Black and Tan - Oso Flaco rarities

Thomas Slater

I've been to Oso Flaco Lake every night this week payin' dues. Last night I saw a weird leucistic almost all white Barn Swallow. I got lousy point and shoot photos so I vowed to go back today and try again with a real camera.

This afternoon I saw the notice from Bob Chapman (when Bob posts it usually means something good is on my end of the county) about the Black Tern seen in Oceano and flying south. I knew that our paths could cross.

There was a hazy fire sky, the sun was a big dark orange ball, not a puff of wind. When I stepped out of the truck I knew something special was gonna happen. Sounds cheesy, but I could feel it.

First bird I saw out on the boardwalk was my leucistic Barn Swallow, perched like a ghost. It sat incredibly close to the boardwalk. I got my shots and knew I'd hate myself if I didn't truck it out to the sand and look for the tern. So I did. Nothing there. Usually I feel deflated at this point, but somehow I still felt like something was going to happen. I decided to stay positive.

Once back on the boardwalk, sun just barely still in the sky, I saw a small tern, like a least tern, but grayer, with a black strap around its head. I knew it had to be the Black Tern (which I studied in my app just prior to heading to Oso Flaco). I shot 200 photos of this distant bird (only 24 were in focus), diving and weaving erratically and low to the water with Barn Swallows dodging. Then I headed home after watching it for about 30 minutes.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, the Barn Swallow is worth seeing if you get a chance and I hope the tern stays put.

Bird on,

Tom Slater

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