Caspian Tern

Yesterday I returned to the pond for the first time in a couple of weeks. In a stroke of luck, I timed my arrival to coincide with the presence of a single Caspian Tern, a bird I’d never seen before. Although I don’t always, this time I had my binoculars and Peterson’s with me. The time it took the tern to catch something to eat—about four or five dives, with some circling in between—was just long enough for me to positively identify it. Once it had the fish, it circled to eat it and then left, flying higher until I couldn’t see which direction it was heading.

It had barely gone when I noticed something odd swimming around out in the middle of the pond. At first I thought it was a small duck, but the trusty binoculars revealed it to be the head of a mammal. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t an otter—the head was too large and square for what I remembered of otters from my many early-childhood visits to Shedd. It seemed unlikely that it was a beaver, and peering at photos once I got home led to the conclusion that it was a muskrat. I don’t know if it’ll stick around; I hadn’t seen it before this weekend.

In addition to those two unusual sightings, I saw several regular favorites: red-winged blackbirds (both male and female), ducks, song sparrows, and a downy woodpecker. I also saw the pair of Canada geese that I saw on my most recent prior visit, and it looks like they’re nesting (one was in the same spot on the island as last time; the other was keeping a pretty close eye on the muskrat). I look forward to seeing the goslings later in the year.

Ever since the years when Trumpet of the Swan was one of my favorite books, I’ve hoped to be able to see birds actually hatching. I’ve never wanted to get too close to their nests, though. Maybe this year—with the nest visible, but not accessible—the timing will be right and I’ll get lucky.

Caspian Tern

3 thoughts on “Caspian Tern

  1. I fondly remember one time a couple of years ago when I got a good look a muskrat. It was under some ice in a pond nearby in the middle of winter. There was no obvious way the muskrat could get to the surface — the pond was totally covered in solid ice. We looked all around for holes that could have been the earth-side exits of tunnels. There were no obvious connections to other nearby bodies of water that were free of ice. A mystery.

    Congrats on Caspian. Good luck getting a glimpse of the Canada goose eggs hatching without being attacked by the parents!

    Glad to find another kindred spirit with eyes open willing to share. In my blog, FieldMarking, I’ve been writing about my neck of the woods which isn’t too far from yours (Howard County).

  2. Thanks — I was surprised and pleased to see the tern; I like finding new birds like that, at my regular places.

    Your Bio Blitz sounds really interesting! I’d love to do that in the future in our backyard. At the moment it’s all Eastern Tent Caterpillars, which I am ruthlessly drowning in the hopes of fewer next year. Our neighbor has three large cherry trees that they love, so they’re really overwhelming everything. I’m hoping to get them to a point where the ants and birds can keep the population steady in future years.

  3. I have it on good authority that the Eastern Tent Caterpillars should start to decline now that their cycle is peaking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *