Terns and skimmers
July 14, 2011

Along the southern La Jolla shoreline flew pelicans, western gulls, terns and black skimmers. Before today, I had never seen skimmers but their low-gliding feeding behavior made their identity clear. They glided smoothly over the ocean with their lower mandible tracing the water's surface in hopes of finding a fish. As I attempted their portrait backdropped by the crests of the huge waves, I noticed they looked stranger than the usual sea birds I was familiar with. Firstly, their wingspan to body size ratio approached that of a pelican and the pointy swept wing shape lent a mild resemblance to a pterodactyl. Next, the long red and black beak help mask the tiny face making it appear more like a robot than an animal. They stayed far off shore and infrequently passed making me wonder if they even nested in La Jolla.

During their absences, I looked for terns and their noticeable fishing strategies, the carefully timed dives and precision flying. During my trip to the northeast, I had become aware of the differences between white plumaged sea birds, mainly between common gulls and this contrastingly clean and refined bird with clearly picky eating habits. Speaking of eating habits, the last time I watched western gulls feed the younglings, the first course was a fresh fish, the second course was fish and the third was a huge piece of bread, which could have been fresh before it was regurgitated. The terns seem to only want fresh fish fished themselves. Although I did not see any successful dives, I did enjoy seeing them hover with the majestic wing spread and streamline feet.