Wednesday, January 16, 2013

At first light in El Ciruelo

After an exciting previous day at Isla Iguana, my family and friends stayed for the night at a friend's house in El Ciruelo, facing the ocean.  The morning of sunday, january 13th, I woke up, walked to the balcony and saw literally hundreds of pelicans, gulls, terns and other birds frenetically feeding at the beach!
I took my bins and camera and headed to the beach (5 minutes away) with Gloriela (the only one awake that early)... mostly Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls were in attendance.
Among the dozens Laughings, I found two (probably more) Franklin's Gulls, and Gloriela was able to compare both species side-by-side.  Shorter legs, smaller bill, more extensive black hood, more prominent eye crescents, etc...
The first tern I saw turned out to be a Royal Tern.  Notice the poor light of the early morning sun, but still enough to pick this species out of the flock, with its large size and orange bill.
But soon we realized that the other orange-billed terns in the flock were not Royals (again in poor light)...
I was listing the differences in comparison to the Royal Tern: smaller, thin bills, obviously crested with solid black crown extending to the eye (no white eyerings)... Elegant Terns!
The Elegant Tern is uncommon in Panama, so seeing four at the same time was great.  The fourth individual also exhibited anomalous red feet.
The last tern in the area was the Sandwich Tern, a lonely individual flew over the flock several times before disappearing in the sea.
Nice way to start the day, with two lifers for Gloriela and not one, or two, nor three, but four Elegant Terns allowing photos... and all before breakfast!  


  1. Congrats on your lifers. I love the cute Terns! What a great way to start your day! Have a happy day!