[Tweeters] Common Terns in Tacoma

Carol & Lynn Schulz carol.schulz50 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 14 07:21:42 PDT 2011

Hi Tweets:
Many thanks to Bruce LaBar, and Marcus Roening for reports of an elusive juv. Franklin's Gull on the log raft in Commencement Bay. I dropped down to a viewing spot there yesterday, supposedly for a short stay, but ended up doing a "vigil" from Noon to about 2:15. Weather calm and cloudy. Perfect. From the pullout that is fairly close to the bottom of the hill on hwy 509 (there is a house there w/ bird feeders), I set up a scope and viewed from the dirt pullout. Below you can view log booms, and a moderate-size log raft. I counted 200 BONAPARTE'S GULLS on my side on Commenc. Bay on the logbooms and flying about. There were at least another 200 over near the Simpson Plant, on a sandbar at the mouth of the Puyallup River, and flying about. Down below me there were about 150 CALIFORNIA GULLS and there were many more (hundreds?) flying over on the other side and perched on the sandbar. Not surprising right now, because there is a huge Pink Salmon run going on. I was thrilled to see juv Bonie's gulls too, including one which flew in to the outer logboom showing the lovely black pattern on its wings, and a black tail band.
I never did see the tan-colored juv Franklin's Gull and was about to leave when Ruth Sullivan showed up. I'm so glad she did. We continued to view w/ scopes, and saw terns flying over in the distance w/ all the other birds. Finally a tern flew nearby, and we thought we saw the forked tail and some of the field marks. No big orange bill. COMMON TERN! Finally, some of those small terns flew in, and for the first time in my life, I managed to get good looks at one or two of that species as they perched on the outer log boom. One at least was a juv, because its legs showed a bit of orange. These terns are really small. They looked like they were 1/2 as big as the nearby Bonies. They always perched near the Bonies. We also kept watching the flying gulls and terns in the distance and nearby. Finally some of the near birds flew up and landed on the log raft that was straight out from us. 4 COMMON TERNS could be seen perched out near the end of the raft w/ all the Bon. Gulls, and the many harbor seals. Ruth saw five terns, but I only saw 4. Once they settled in good, you could not see them in the crowd anymore. Just to the north, I counted 19 BLACK TURNSTONES on the logs, and in the pier area.
I'm so glad Ruth came by! Because of her and her enthusiasm, I stayed and was thrilled to see the terns. We kept referring to my book called Gulls of the Americas by Howell and Dunn. It is a big, photographic book, publ. in 2007. We also looked at the big book, Gulls of N. Amer, Europe, and Asia. There are pictures of the "almost seen" juv Franklin's Gull in them.
You can now walk on the beach below the pullout, and that may be the great viewing spot, depending on tide and weather. Just south of the bird-feeder-house pullout is the new park called Dick Gilmur Mem'l Park. There are 4 or 5 parking spots there, and dog walkers often stop there and take their dogs down to the beach. From there, it's probably a block farther north (to the right) on the beach to the good viewing areas.
Thanks, everyone, for the past reports.
Yours, Carol Schulz
Des Moines (where all the many Pink Salmon are running in the nearby Green River in Kent)
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