Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A sweet reunion with the uncommon Little Tern

The last time I saw one of these uncommon migrants was over twelve years ago, at Olango Island off Cebu. It was late October 2014, and the bird then was still molting off its breeding plumage.

I made a short visit yesterday afternoon to the fishponds of Binmaley (Pangasinan), and I saw a lot of water birds. When light started to turn golden, one particular bird passed by my position, and I instinctively raised my camera to take a burst. I have all but forgotten the capture, thinking it was just of a garden variety Whiskered Tern.

When I reviewed the shots in my computer, I noticed something peculiar - the bill was thinner and longer, and not all-black,  as compared to the Whiskered Tern. Likewise, the tips of the overwing are much darker. I quickly looked at my Kennedy Guide, and voila... what I got was the uncommon Little Tern!

This capture validated once more a personal rule that I practice in the field - when encountering a seemingly common bird, don't ask questions and dismiss the capture opportunity. Just raise the camera and get the shots, as these can be deleted easily in the computer later. Who knows, what initially appears to the eye as an ugly duckling might turn out to be a beautiful swan.

_____

Little Tern (Sterna albifrons , migrant, non-breeding plumage)

Habitat - Uncommon along coasts, bays and river mouths. 


Shooting Info - Binmaley, Pangasinan, Philippines, November 30, 2016, EOS 7D MII + EF 400 DO IS II + EF 1.4x TC III,
560 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO 320, manual exposure in available light, hand held, major crop resized to 800 x 533.

For reference, here's my 2004 capture, with the newly arrived migrant still sporting some of its breeding plumage.

Shooting Info - Olango Island, Cebu, Philippines, October 22, 2004, EOS 20D+ EF 400 f/5.6 L, 400 mm, f/8, ISO 200, 1/2500 sec, hand held, major crop.

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