Parastic Jaeger and likey Arctic Tern off Montauk Point - 12 Jun 2009

This evening I seawatched for a couple of hours from Montauk Point. There was dense fog along the south shore especially over the low areas around Montauk Village but it was fairly clear on the north side of the point. Good numbers of Common and Roseate Terns, Laughing Gulls (100+) and larger gulls were feeding on bait fish. After a while a subadult PARASTIC JAEGER cruised through, making half-hearted runs at birds carrying fish. Oddly, the jaeger seemed uninterested in the abundant Common Terns, favoring Laughing Gulls and the few Least Terns that were also present. The only tubenose I saw was a single WILSON'S STORM-PETREL that also cruised past once and vanished. Given the limited visibility there could have been more activity further out, as illustrated by the 1st and 2nd summer NORTHERN GANNETS that would briefly emerge from the gloom and then disappear. I have no explanation for the tight raft of 30 CANADA GEESE ridding the chop surrounded by charter fishing boats.

As I was watching an excited group of terns feeding about 150 yards in front of the restaurant, I noticed a smaller 1st-summer type tern among them. It was surprisingly easy to track because of its shorter wings and distinctive 'twinkling' flight style - more like that of a Roseate than a Common. There were one or perhaps two other 1st summer birds in the group and they were clearly much more similar to the Commons that this individual which I suspect was an ARCTIC TERN. The dark bill looked relatively short and the black half-cap was solid across the nape and did not seem to extend as far down the neck as the other similar aged birds. The wing tips were pale with a well-defined black trailing edge visible on the underside. It was difficult to resolve any pattern on the upperside of the wing tips, certainly nothing like the obvious grey/block visible on the adult Commons. Obviously, the ID remains tentative given the distance and the fact that I did not get to see the bird landed when the very short legs become a valuble ID feature. Based on Shai Mitra's observations at Cupsogue, it seems likely that small numbers of Arctic Terns (mostly 1st summer birds) visit the inshore ocean waters off Long Island in June and July and are well worth looking for when an opportunity presents.

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