Saturday, April 10, 2010


Ben Griffith and I joined up with Jason Lambert (and Len Medlock for part of the day) for a day of spring birding. Things started out slow, but we had a few interesting non-bird sightings and ended the day on a high note with a stunning Royal Tern in Hampton Harbor!

Not only are Royal Terns generally rare for the state, but this is an extremely EARLY date. As far as I know there are NO previous April records for Royal Tern ANYWHERE in New England. The northernmost April record in eBird is in New Jersey, and the earliest record I know of for Massachusetts is May 17.

As we were driving over the Hampton-Seabrook bridge, Ben noticed this bird and casually remarked that there was a Bonaparte's Gull flying into the harbor, at which point it quickly became apparent that it was not a "bony," but a tern! A frantic search of Hampton Harbor ensued, and I spotted the bird roosting with a handful of gulls in the marsh on the north side of the Hampton Marina. The bird was not much smaller than the Ring-billed Gulls next to it, and through a scope we could see the thick, orange bill, black cap with a few scattered white feathers, a squared-appearance to the nape, and pale gray primaries. We studied the bird from 6:00 to 6:45 when the bird took off and flew over our heads before continuing east over the houses towards Hampton Beach. Luckily we were able to get the word out and about half a dozen other birders were able to get to see the bird before it left.

Photos from the day can be found here:

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