|On June 4 I received an email from one of my Breeding Bird Atlasers,
Kathy Foley, saying that her husband, Michael Fager, had discovered a small
colony of Common Terns nesting under the Route 99 bridge between Everett
and Charlestown. I was absolutely thrilled, so on June 8 I went with my
camera to check it out. When I got there I saw a small pier running out
from the bridge, and I could see terns perching on it.
June 8, Route 99: I counted eight birds on nests. The other
terns were lounging around - I saw no signs of fishing apart from short
forays away and back.
June 8, Route 99: It was 90 degrees, and the incubating birds
didn't look very pleased. I was interested to note that one egg had escaped
a nest (between the two nests).
On June 8 Kathy and Michael were out atlasing and discovered another
tern nesting on the Mystic River, this time on the Route 28 bridge between
Medford and Somerville, a first Middlesex County record as far as I can
On June 10, Route 28: I went to check it out and found a single
June 26 update:
I went down the Mystic River to see what was happening with the terns.
June 26, Route 28: The single Route 28 tern pair had hatched
three chicks (note that she sports a band on her leg - a close-up of the
band reveals only that it ends in a "2")
June 26, Route 28: I was tickled to see a food delivery while
I was there.
June 26, Route 99: On the Route 99 pier there were a few groups
June 26, Route 99: All sorts of stuff going on here - two chicks,
two rejected eggs, and on the right a tern apparently incubating. In the
photo of the pier taken on June 8 there is no evidence of a tern nesting
in this location.
June 26, Route 99: While I was there, the mate came in with
a food delivery. I tried changing angles to see if I could see any eggs
while she was standing, but I couldn't see.
June 26, Route 99: There were a fair number of rejected eggs.
On June 8 there was a single "reject" egg, but nothing like this number.
July 6, Route 99: A shot of the Route 99 pier shows several
terns still apparently incubating.
July 6, Route 99: There were five groups of hatched young of
various sizes, three with two chicks, two with one chick. Could have missed
some. Although there are several feeding trips, there were probably not
more than a dozen during the 30 minutes I watched them.
July 6, Route 28: At Route 28 I initially saw no chick, but
when I saw a tern flying under the pier I realized there was a single chick
on a broken beam.
July 6, Route 28: I was impressed with the parent who came in
with food at least four times during the time I was there, but it seemed
like such a vulnerable position I wasn't optimistic about the future of
July 13, Route 99: I counted six broods, including some chicks
that were well developed and beginning to show the black cap. There appeared
to be three adult terns still on nest. I wasn't able to spend a whole lot
of time there because someone saw me with my camera and I was threatened
with arrest (there's an LNG terminal nearby and they think it's a terrorist
July 13, Route 28: Two chicks! I have no idea how I could have
missed one last week, especially since I watched the adult deliver food
four consecutive times to the single chick.
July 13, Route 28: Occasionally they would leave their perch
for a short swim. I thought that was odd so I asked tern experts Ian Nisbet
and Hector Galbraith about this behavior, and both said they had only seen
this happen if there were some sort of threat. These chicks seemed to take
to the water randomly - no obvious threat nearby, no association with parent's
food delivery (or non-delivery).
Route 28: Speaking of threats, on the Route 99 bridge where
there were nine or ten pairs of terns, I never observed any aggressive
behavior toward gulls, but at the Route 28 bridge the single pair were
extremely aggressive toward gulls. If a gull showed up even at a distance,
one of the adults would fly off toward it vocalizing loudly and strafing
Route 28, July 19: When I first arrived I looked for the chicks
under the pier again, but couldn't find them. But as I approached the pier
one of the adults came right at me. That's promising!
Route 28, July 19: There they were, back on the pier again.
Route 28, July 19: And they can fly!
Route 28, July 19: I was amazed to see one dive and come up
Route 28, July 19: On closer examination it seems to be just
a stick. Practice.
Route 28, July 19: They hung out for a while on the water
Route 28, July 19: And eventually came back to the pier.
Nature doesn't always have happy endings. A single pair of terns nesting
on a pier sounded unpromising, then the chicks fell off the pier. I was
sure that these chicks were not going to make it. Does a single pair of
Common Terns really matter in the overall scheme of things? Probably not,
but it is a pleasure seeing these guys beat the odds.