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Forster's Tern, Tundra Swan at BWMTP and a Sedge Wren

Published July 04, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Sedge Wren, Brown Thrasher, Bobolink, Swamp Sparrow, Forster's Tern, Common Tern, Tundra Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Gadwal, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron

Happy Fourth of July to all!

Today, Doug Happ and I tried for the Sedge Wrens that have been reported in Greece, NY.  After we got to the site, Doug quickly found one of the wrens in his scope and shared views with myself and another couple we met on the path. The tiny wren's underparts were buff colored and his head and back were very dark and streaked. I don't think I saw him with his tail in anything but a near 90 degree angle from his body.  He sang his harsh song many, many times as he clung to his little perches, periodically changing locations throughout the sedge grasses.  We were pretty certain we saw his lady friend on a separate occasion.

Did you know some birds build dummy nests? This is a defensive behavior designed to trick would-be predators and the Sedge Wren, like all wrens, uses this tactic.

By the way, we were privileged to meet Eldon Remy, author of The Great Pageant, a book about spring and fall migrations from the south shore of Lake Ontario. Eldon kindly signed copies of his book for us since his wife was so thrilled to have seen the Sedge Wren, a life bird for her too! I'm really looking forward to reading Eldon's book - many thanks to the both of them!

After enjoying the wren for awhile, we met up with Celeste Morien and made a brief visit to the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant where we saw a Tundra Swan and a Forster's Tern! Both birds, like the Sedge Wren, were life birds for me.

In our car, there was no little discussion regarding the beak color, leg color, length of primary wings vs the length of the tail when we came upon a group of 4 Common Terns! When it was finally decided we were looking at Common Terns, Celeste got a look at a swan in her bins. We had to drive around a couple of the tertiary ponds to get to the swan - and along the way, we spotted a Horned Grebe, some Double-crested Cormorants, Mallards with ducklings, Hooded Mergansers, 2 Gadwall, 5 Spotted Sandpipers, several Great Blue Herons, and a couple of Green Herons.

Almost to the swan, we saw a lone tern perched on a post. This was a Forster's Tern!  Now that we were presented with the other species, his ID was easy. Note how the tail of the Forster's Tern extends well beyond the wing tips, while the Common Tern's tail is shorter than its wings. The black hood of the Forster's doesn't reach his beak like it does on the Common Tern, and a couple of other, more subtle differences (like beak and back coloring), were pretty easy to discern when seeing both birds so close together.

We got to the swan shortly before the gates were due to be closed and locked for the night, so we rushed to scope, photograph, and make an ID. The consensus was Tundra!  After posting the swan to eBird, another big discussion ensued as his identity was in question. Could it be a possible leucistic Trumpeter swan? These 2 swans are very difficult to tell apart (Distinguishing Trumpeter and Tundra Swans) and my less-than-great photos were submitted to help make the final determination.  If it is a Tundra, he is 3 weeks out of the normal date range for our area.  I'm finding the review process and discussions fascinating and I'm enjoying the challenge this has presented.  So far, the close scrutiny is showing Tundra Swan to be a unanimous ID.

UPDATE 7/7/2013: Tundra Swan is confirmed.
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Forster's Tern
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Common Tern
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Tundra Swan
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Tundra
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Tundra
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Tundra
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Young Brown Thrasher
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Double-crested Cormorant
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Sedge Wren - lousy shots, I know! It was the best I could get, given the distance...
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Sedge Wren
Reply from: shelley on 5/6/2015 6:35 AM
 i love your blog, your anecdotes and tips . i know know how to look for a Forster's tern ! thanks Sue!!