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Sooty Tern at Bolsa Chica

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  • Brian Daniels
    The Sooty Tern reported here this week, I believe it was Tuesday, by Peter Knapp, was present this morning from about 0700 to 1100. Leo Ohtsuki found the bird
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 1, 2009
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      The Sooty Tern reported here this week, I believe it was Tuesday, by Peter Knapp, was present this morning from about 0700 to 1100. Leo Ohtsuki found the bird today loafing at the east end of the "peninsula" that separates Inner Bolsa Bay from what is called the Big Bay - the recently created inner bay that receives tidal flow from the new PCH bridge. The bird can be viewed from the "point" that juts into the Big Bay. Cross the boardwalk from the PCH parking lot and walk to the end of the fence, turn right and walk to the benches at the end of the point. Scopes are necessary to see the bird. Its at the far end of the peninsula (dike road connects to end of this peninsula so maybe not technically a peninsula). Its "spot" is near a log and a slight crest on the slope. Lots of Elegant Terns and sometimes obscured our views of the Sooty Tern. Sometimes the Sooty Tern walked behind the "crest" or sat down behind the log and "disappeared," but it was still present when we left. It got up and made several short flights, but always returned to the same spot. Early morning views with cloudy skies were far superior to late morning views through a heat haze.

      A few other observers showed up and saw this bird. Someone asked how many Sooty Terns for Bolsa Chica so I decided to check. My first at Bolsa Chica was on July 30, 1994, a bird found by Doug Willick. My notes indicate that this was the 3rd Sooty/Bridled Tern I had "chased" at Bolsa Chica. The 2007 CBRC "Rare Birds of California" lists the July 30, 1994 bird as the 2nd accepted record for California. This record also includes this bird's presumed return in the following consecutive summers of 1995, 1996, 1997, and (spring) 1998. The Orange County book (Hamilton and Willick 1996) treat the returning bird in 1995 as the "fourth" California record which is incorrect. However, the CBRC accepted the July 30, 1995 sighting of a Sooty Tern off of Doheny State Beach as the fourth state record, but the OC book considers it to be the Bolsa Chica bird seen foraging away from its Bolsa Chica summering home. This may very well be the case and its interesting that the CBRC chose not to accept this.

      As for the July 30, 1994 Sooty Tern being the third one I'd chased at Bolsa, I found that one was listed in the CBRC book (August 5, 1990 record that was not accepted), but not the second one (June 12, 1993). Both records were listed in the Orange County book and listed as inconclusive. The second record should have been listed in the CBRC book under the "not submitted" column.

      So besides the returning bird (1994 to 1998), there was actually a pair that showed up in July 1996 (yep, I actually saw all three Sooty Terns together on July 22, 1996) at Bolsa Chica during the summer of 1996. These two birds represented the 7th and 8th California records and 2nd and 3rd for OC. So today's bird will probably be the 4th record for OC and at least the 12th for California.

      Good birding,
      Brian Daniels
    • bedafort
      Birders, Presumably last year s Sooty Tern was again present today at Bolsa Chica. Leo Ohtsuki found it about 0930 this morning (Peter Knapp inside had seen
      Message 2 of 3 , Apr 4, 2010
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        Birders,

        Presumably last year's Sooty Tern was again present today at Bolsa Chica. Leo Ohtsuki found it about 0930 this morning (Peter Knapp "inside" had seen it about one hour earlier) during low tide. This bird spent most of its time flying around with Elegant Terns in the Big Bay (the recently created tidal basin). It would land with the Elegant Terns on the furthest sand/mud flat from our viewing location (the "point" overlook accessed by crossing over the boardwalk and walking to end of fence that protects the west end of the "peninsula"). It was very difficult to see the bird on the ground (especially with the heat waves), let alone see its field marks at this distance. In flight, however, most of the important marks could be discerned. We observed it up to about 1130. Our best views were when it flew (twice) over the "point" overlook giving its "ke-wak" call. If there had been Elegant Terns sitting on the flats near us, instead of just gulls, I think it would have landed and given us outstanding views.

        Good luck,

        Brian Daniels
      • Steve Sosensky
        I was with Brian and Leo for the second flyover. I put a photo in the photos section at
        Message 3 of 3 , Apr 4, 2010
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          I was with Brian and Leo for the second flyover. I put a photo in the
          photos section at
          <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OrangeCountyBirding/photos/recent/576695982/view>.
          Unfortunately, there was strong back-lighting, so the photo is somewhat grainy.

          At 01:43 PM 4/4/2010, bedafort wrote:
          >Birders,
          >
          >Presumably last year's Sooty Tern was again present today at Bolsa
          >Chica. Leo Ohtsuki found it about 0930 this morning (Peter Knapp
          >"inside" had seen it about one hour earlier) during low tide. This
          >bird spent most of its time flying around with Elegant Terns in the
          >Big Bay (the recently created tidal basin). It would land with the
          >Elegant Terns on the furthest sand/mud flat from our viewing
          >location (the "point" overlook accessed by crossing over the
          >boardwalk and walking to end of fence that protects the west end of
          >the "peninsula"). It was very difficult to see the bird on the
          >ground (especially with the heat waves), let alone see its field
          >marks at this distance. In flight, however, most of the important
          >marks could be discerned. We observed it up to about 1130. Our
          >best views were when it flew (twice) over the "point" overlook
          >giving its "ke-wak" call. If there had been Elegant Terns sitting
          >on the flats near us, instead of just gulls, I think it would have
          >landed and given us outstanding views.


          Good birding,

          Steve Sosensky,
          SoCA Bird Guides <steve at sosensky.com> www.sosensky.com/guides
          Nature Photos www.sosensky.com/nature_photos.htm
          Optics4Birding <steve at optics4birding.com> www.optics4birding.com
          Aliso Viejo, CA 92656 949-269-2161 33.56485 N, 117.72205 W
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