On July 23, I was on a boat. I like boats. I particularly like the kinds of birds you see while on boats. I also particularly like the kinds of birders who like being on boats and who like the kinds of birds you see while on boats (recently mentioned exceptions notwithstanding).
This particular boat was the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara, and the trip was great for diversity, if not for Pterodroma species (no puling from me, however, I saw over 20 year birds over the course of 14 hours). Did you know that “petrel” is probably derived from “St. Peter”? We like to think about the fine points of flight differences between shearwaters and gadfly petrels (and very much enjoy the ensuing heart murmur/attack when a bird has arced up over the waves in a gadfly fashion), but somehow I had not connected the general word petrel with the idea of walking on water. Sort of like how I had not connected Kanga and Roo until about the age of 25: we all have our moments of brilliance, I guess.
The bird of the day (after the more legitimate excitements of a Laysan Albatross, 2 Red-billed Tropicbirds, a Manx Shearwater, etc.) ended up being this stupid tern. It should have been a simple matter, but this first year bird confounded me. My first thought was Common Tern, but then I have more experience with those than with Arctic, and not a depth of knowledge in either, so when it was called as Arctic (and almost as quickly debated), I evaluated again. This left me confused. The bird was obliging, however, and sat as we neared it, and provided for perfectly fine photo opportunities. I thought this should then clear everything up – surely this one could be solved? I have no qualms about “letting it go”, but in this case, both in the field and in the photos, I observed features that could argue for either Common or Arctic. My photos are *not* perfectly fine, for the record, because my exposure was stopped down for some previous shots, and because of many other excuses I’ll leave out. They do point out some of the ID arguments, however, so here they are:
Anyone wish to discuss? Also, more photos from the day are at my BirdspotUS Flickr page here, if you are interested.
Edited Aug 19: I have added two more photos. They’re crap, but one gives a view of the bird in a less foreshortened profile, the other possibly more info as to the wing plumage: