This morning I almost made a trip out to Branan Field or Sheffield Regional Park to continue my search for June rarities, but at the last minute decided to heed my own advice and just keep going to Huguenot. I arrived around 06:45 and it was already 79F, setting up for a warm morning. Today I decided to park at the jetties and planned on making the full park circuit from there rather than my usual route of starting at the entrance or nature center.
The river side of the jetties was almost clear of birds, save for a couple Ruddy Turnstones, Royal Terns, and Laughing Gulls. I headed north along the shoreline, passing two American Oystercatchers, zero Sanderlings, some Boat-tailed Grackles, and a Willet. Near “Zone 10”, I finally happened upon the first flock of gulls and terns, and noticed the dapper fellow pictured below.
I didn’t have my scope nor my camera, so I took a couple digiscope images through my 8.5 x 42 Swarovskis and ran back to the truck, hoping the bird would stay put. I drove back up the beach and fortunately the bird was still just sitting there preening.
The tide was exceptionally low this morning (low at 5:38 a.m.) and it was beginning to come in as I watched the bird from around 07:00 to 08:15. This was beneficial as it prompted the tern to periodically shuffle forward, allowing me to view multiple angles and field marks without it being disturbed by any passerby.
As I was studying the tern, a Common Tern flew in and landed right next to the Roseate. In the image above, you can notice a slight size difference, as well as differences in bill shape and length, head shape, and the length of the tail relative to the primary extension. The Common is also showing the expected dark carpal bar. In the image below, please note that I did not do any post-processing of the picture…those bright legs are not enhanced by any photo editor!
I watched the bird continue to preen and stretch its wings for about 30 minutes before it lifted up and flew a short distance.
When it lifted up, I got some decent shots of the long forked tail (above), as well as the clean white underwing. In the photo below, you can see the 3 or 4 gray primaries that Sibley notes in his guide.
Roseate Tern is a spectacularly rare bird in Northeast Florida. I don’t know of any reports or records in St. Johns or Nassau Counties, and only came across one previous report when I researched the history of birds in Duval County. I documented that in 2014 as follows: “There is one known report of Roseate Tern for Duval County, a bird observed at Mayport on 7 April 1974 by Grimes, Powell, and Markgraf (Kale, 1974). Other “nearby” records are from Jekyll Island, GA (10 May 2006) and Ponce de Leon Inlet, FL (23 June 2014), some one hundred or so miles to the south.”
The last Roseate Tern I saw was in the Florida Keys behind the Marathon Government Center building during a quick stop Marie, Roger Clark, and I made after seeing the Cuban Vireo in April 2016.
This bird is the 319th I’ve seen in Duval County, and the 193rd I’ve seen just at Huguenot Memorial Park. A few more photos are below. Enjoy!