Sunday, 23 October 2011

USA Trip Part Eleven: Elegant

I am nearing the end of my USA Trip reports, it's been fun to look back on a brilliant 3 weeks and share the images i took so just a few more posts before it's back to Autumn and Winter UK wildlife. This post contains images of Elegant Terns, another new bird for me and a cracking Tern species similar to the UK's Little Tern in looks.

My first experience with this bird was at the Point Reyes National Seashore reserve which myself and Erin visited from San Francisco on a day trip. The reserve is a great swarth of marsh, beaches and rough grassland and at this time of year is well known for attracting plenty of raptors on migration as they stop off to hunt. We only had 1/2 a day there and could really only pop in to the visitor centre and then pick one of the beaches to have a walk along. We reached Limantour Beach and had a walk viewing the various wading birds along waters edge, on the way back to the car we came across a large group of Heerman's Gulls resting on the beach, Erin shouted out "what's that white one!?" and in amongst the group was a lone Elegant Tern! I initially identified it as a Royal Tern but after some more research decided it was an Elegant, here it is....

My next experience of these birds was a large flock on one of the gorgeous beaches on the 17 Mile Drive from Pebble Beach to Pacific Group. This group was quite wary and would take off and fly out to sea everytime a jogger or beach-goer would get near them, this made photography tricky as i spent ages slowly crawling along the sand towards them, only for them to be disturbed, take to the sea and then return in a completely different place! Despite being warm and sunny it was also very windy so i had to contend with sand blowing in my face and onto my camera and due to the warm weather and number of sand flies were around, you can see them in the images below. Anyways, here are the best of the images, enjoy...


  1. Hi Ben - really enjoying your blog and your account of your recent trip to the US. I have a feeling that the first tern that you have captured is actually a Royal Tern and the later images are of Elegent Terns. I visited california on a short business trip in 2009 and thought I was photographing Elegent terns until I saw some and found their bills to be much longer and slightly down-curved that the Royal terns that I'd been seeing.

  2. Hi Robin, that's really interesting! I was sure it was a Royal Tern after i photographed it but a US birder took a look at my images and changed my mind. Will do some more research, would be nice to know i saw both Royal and Elegants!

    Glad you're enjoying the images, only a couple more posts to go, i loved California!

  3. I agree Ben - sadly my visit was business related and I got very little time to bird in LA. Some images of Royal Terns are shown here and I made this same mistake thinking at first that I was seeing Elegent Terns.

  4. I'm thinking you have both royal and elegant above. I recently posted both, after pulling my hair out figuring out the differences:

    One commenter provided a great SDNHM site comparing the 2 species:

    ps - I live very near 17 Mile Drive in Pacific Grove. Glad to hear it was sunny when you were here.