Sea swallows

Field guides will tell you that terns are closely related to gulls and suggest that, because of similar feeding habits and a shared gregariousness, one might find all members of the Laridae family of birds equally deserving of our admiration.

That might be true for you, but I mostly ignore gulls in favor of terns. Exceptions to that are the handsome summer presence of Laughing Gulls and the dainty Bonaparte’s in winter.

In terns I see long fast wings that dance over the sun-dappled sea as it heaves at my feet…


the hover-and-plunge feeding technique so suited to little waves and the little fish they pluck from the shadows…


the dark eyes and sharp downward-pointed bills, the rising cloud of white birds and the storm of their cries all around me…

A particular joy at this time of the season, late July, when young terns and young osprey at Sandy Hook are learning to fish and to make their way in the world is to place myself among them on the bay near to sunset: behind every shell or pebble or bit of sea-drift is the possibility of a young bird waiting for its next meal delivery; a feathered army of birds marching ahead of me until finally I settle myself amongst them, drenched and soggy in the tide, sand-covered and happy.

: )

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#1: Common or Forster’s? I’m thinking Common, but would welcome hints!

#2: Young Least Tern, begging (and squealing, almost!)

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