Birding Longboat Key, Florida
The early morning sunlight was still soft across the beach, but it was growing higher in the sky by the minute.
...even though the mustard-tipped bill has nothing to do with their name, it really does fit perfectly with Sandwich Tern!
Wanting to learn a little bit more about these cute little terns, I did a bit of googling, and came across an entry written by none other than John James Audubon himself! I had stumbled across the 1840 "First Octavo Edition" of John James Audubon's seven-volume set of "Birds of America," which is online and available to all on Audubon's site. Here is the intro to Audubon's entry on Sandwich Terns:
"On the 26th of May, 1832, while sailing along the Florida Keys in Mr. THRUSTON's barge, accompanied by his worthy pilot and my assistant, I observed a large flock of Terns, which, from their size and other circumstances, I would have pronounced to be Marsh Terns, had not the difference in their manner of flight convinced me that they were of a species hitherto unknown to me. The pleasure which one feels on such an occasion cannot easily be described, and all that it is necessary for me to say on the subject at present is, that I begged to be rowed to them as quickly as possible. A nod and a wink from the pilot satisfied me that no time should be lost, and in a few minutes all the guns on board were in requisition. The birds fell around us; but as those that had not been injured remained hovering over their dead and dying companions, we continued to shoot until we procured a very considerable number. On examining the first individual picked up from the water, I perceived from the yellow point of its bill that it was different from any that I had previously seen, and accordingly shouted "A prize! a prize! a new bird to the American Fauna!" And so it was, good reader, for no person before had found the Sandwich Tern on any part of our coast. A large basket was filled with them, and we pursued our course."What a difference 178 years makes! To read the rest of this chapter, click here. To access the book's online table of contents, click here.
...related to this subject, I just finished reading a book called "No Woman Tenderfoot; Florence Merriam Bailey, Pioneer Naturalist," by Harriet Kofalk. Florence Merriam Bailey was a proponent of studying live birds in their natural environment instead of studying birds that had been shot. She also organized the Smith College Audubon Society and led students to boycott the manufacturing of feathered hats, the millinery style that was killing more than five million birds a year. Through her writing and flyers, she helped turn the tide and no doubt saved many of our beautiful herons and egrets from extinction. It's an interesting book written in 1989. (My cousin, Mary Ann, found this book in a used book store and sent it to me. Thanks, Mary Ann!)