Fun with Forster’s Terns
Yesterday morning I spent some time visiting a few of of my favorite Queens birding spots, hoping to find one of the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that have invaded the northeastern United States this year. I didn’t have any luck with the ducks, not that I expected to, but I did get to a couple birding spots that I don’t tend to bird in June. One such place is Baisley Pond Park, a park that I usually forget exists between March and November. Great for wintering ducks but generally not very exciting in the long days of summer, there seems to be no reason to look for birds there in June. But it is a pond relatively close to the coast so I figured I might as well take a look.
I saw no whistling-ducks but I did see several Forster’s Terns.
Ducks were scarce, with a single Mallard and a sextet of Wood Ducks being the only actual ducks on the pond. (There was a lingering American Coot as well.) But there was decent light and birds to digiscope so I set myself up and started taking pictures. Nothing was as cooperative as the Forster’s Terns but it’s hard to get decent flight shots of terns with a digiscoping rig, as they twist and turn so quickly in the air that they are very hard to track and keep in focus manually.
I got lucky a couple of times when the bird made close passes.
What amazed me, though, was when one of the terns suddenly took exception to another foraging on the same pond as the first and swooped down and hit the other as it was trying to catch a fish. The hit bird sat on the water looking confused for a moment but then the attacker started on another strafing run.
The bird on the water prepared itself for battle.
The attacker came on at high speed!
The bird on the water launched itself into the air, seeming to catch the attacker by surprise.
The tables were “terned” (I’m allowed a dad joke the day after Fathers Day) and the attacker started trying to get away.
The attacked bird kept heading up after the attacker and they eventually flew out of sight.
I don’t know which bird won but only one came back and continued to hunt…
…until it was chased off by a Red-winged Blackbird.
Even when there is no rarity around it’s always worth watching to see what birds are getting up to. You may see nothing terribly interesting but you can also see a tern battle!