Monday, July 16, 2012

Batting Away Terns/Birding Poe Road

One of Poe's many Forster's Terns. This picture summons up Charley Harper artwork for me. Do you see, Flycatcher Jen? Do you see?

Poe Road is the southernmost access to the Salton Sea, a little bit removed from the heavily-birded area between Bowles Road and the Wister Unit and not as well known as the end of Vendel Road (i.e. Bean Goose town). I'm always impressed with the numbers of birds here, and I don't think it will be long before some ubervagrant shows up on this prime piece of shoreline, although I'm sure plenty have in the past. When I lurked out there last week there was a big flock of terns sitting around, as well as a horde of Brown pelicans, decent numbers of shorebirds and some much sought-after Yellow-footed Gulls.

Since the level of the Salton Sea is always changing (I would say "shrinking" is the general trend), there is now a pretty solid roadway of sorts that goes all the way to the shore now; this is easily driveable by any vehicle (assuming no recent rain or Salton Sea level rise), making it a great place to both bird/photograph from your car and set up a scope in a desperate and probably futile attempt to find a Blue-footed Booby plunge-diving offshore. Make sure you check this spot out if you haven't already.

Forster's Tern. The grayness of the bird has shaken the birding community to its very core, as this field mark is popular for people to use in separating Forster's and Common Terns (only Commons are supposed to be this gray). However, after seeing gray-bellied Forster's Terns in San Diego all spring and summer, I say this field mark is helpful at most, and to solely rely on this makes you a sketchy birder. You heard it here first, Sibley!

Seriously though, if you have any more compelling reasons to tell me why this is a Common Tern, I would love to hear them...especially if your name rhymes with "Benn Baufman". The bird strikes me as too long-tailed and long-billed...but I am no Benn Baufman, who ranks pretty high on the Global Birder Ranking Scale.

Forster's Tern (same bird as in the above photos).

Black and Forster's Terns milling around in the awful heat. It was blood-boilingly hot that afternoon, which adds to the surreal feeling of birding the sea in summer.

Caspian Terns are thick at the Salton Sea; easily one of the commonest birds there this time of year. This one is sharp-looking.

Terns are generally really good looking birds in spring and early summer, but they are cursed with baldness for their youth and for many months of the year.

This is a little tilapia that a Forster's Tern dropped. More like a Falling Fish than a Flying Fish. I wonder what it was thinking when this photo was taken.

The salty bird gods of the Salton Sea allowed me to get a bit closer to Western Sandpipers than I normally do.

Western Sandpipers. I would guess the long-billed bird on the left is a female and the one on the right may be a male, just going by bill length. 

Just a giant pile of dead fish, par for the course at the Salton Sea. Man, what a fucked up place.

All the crap and dead trees that litter the shoreline of the Salton Sea can really add to bird photos. This Snowy Egret shot is 70% better with this dumb post in the foreground than it would be without it.


  1. Very impressive photos of the Terns in flight, but the fish in flight really takes the cake.

    1. Thanks much Tammy. Yes, skyfish are not something you see every day, at least not attached to an Osprey.

  2. This place looks Sweeeeet. I can't wait until it's my tern to go. Tis' rather appropriate that a band back in the 1960s called the Byrds wrote the song Tern, Tern, Tern. As they said, "There is a season, Tern, Tern Tern." I guess the heat is all par for the course.

    Funny you mentioned the Tern maturation cycle. I was thinking just the other day about how funny it is that their male-pattern baldness decreases over time.

    But most of all, that inverted Tilapia shot should win some sort of award. If it were up to me, I'd name him Tom Petty (that really annoying song, "Free Falling") and I'd guess he's thinking "..The f**k is going on?"

    1. Ive lost track of the number of bird blog posts that have punned that song...I might even be guilty of it. Dont do it!

      Tom Petty. I cant stand him. Call me unamerican but its much better to live with that title than be a Tom Petty fan.

      When the fish told the other fish about what happened, they probably didnt believe it.

    2. Once when I was in an AJ's supermarket maybe 6 years ago, a small Japanese man ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and exclaimed, "Oh ho look at you, you're a real American boy! Here, you musta take a picture with me!!" And indeed he did pull out a camera. I mention this anecdote only because, apparently to some, I am the paragon of Americanness, and I too hate Tom "I'm really" Petty. I'm glad we're on the same page about that.
      Also, I don't really like the Byrds, but starting down the road of 'things I don't like' is a dangerous tangent.

      What do you think the odds are of that same fish being taken by a Tern again?

    3. OH MY GOD. I think I have to stop reading your blog. BOTH of your blogs. How can anyone not like Tom Petty???????????? It's not unamerican- it's just un-human. I am seriously upset by this information.

    4. But yeah, I see the Charley Harper thing. And the fish is cool. God who are you going to attack next? Bruce Springsteen?

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    6. I'm sorry Jen, but I 'Won't Back Down' here, even if your opinion of me is 'Free Falling'. You may say to me, "You Don't Know How It Feels" because Tom Petty isn't my go-to 'Apartment Song', but I'd rather die and move on 'Into The Great Wide Open' than stay for "Mary Jane's Last Dance.' If I could say one thing to Tom Petty it would be, "Yer So Bad."

      Americans are better than humans, didn't you know that Jen?

  3. Wow, I like whats happening here.

    1. That's not the title of a Tom Petty song Seagull : /