Whiskered Tern – The Video

Andy McGannBirding, birds in flight, Chase, Featured, Rarities4 Comments

Heads up, this video is set to (loud) music.

By now, we all know the story. On Friday, September 12, 2014, a Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) was found in Cape May, New Jersey by Louise Zemaitis and Alec Humann. Only the third North American record, the previous two records, in 1993 and 1998, both occurred in Cape May. The species is a full-blooded “Code 5 Rarity” as designated by the American Birding Association. It must have crossed a whole lot of Western Europe where it would have been considered a vagrant before transiting the Atlantic Ocean. It should probably be in Africa right now. This bird is a big deal.

I had to see this bird. But Cape May is a five or six hour haul from Somerset, Pennsylvania, and to seriously complicate matters, I had tickets to see The Black Keys concert in Pittsburgh Saturday night. (And I was NOT going to miss that show!) After a mild anxiety attack, I concluded that there was no way for me to get to Cape May before dark on the first day. So naturally I left my house in southwestern Pennsylvania at 1 am that night, and I arrived just before dawn on Saturday morning.

The two-and-a-half hours that I spent with the bird that morning were a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. The bird was putting on a show between foraging trips to Bunker Pond and “loafing” with the large flock of native terns on the beach. If you watch the video, you’ll see that these birds are actually doing a lot while they are supposedly “just sitting there.”

In putting this video clip together I must have watched the individual segments hundreds of times. Oddly enough, I find myself still watching it over and over again. This is an epic bird, and after all of the magnificent photographs I’ve seen, the untold story is how this bird moves.

I recorded this footage with an iPhone 5s attached to a Kowa TSN-883 Prominar spotting scope with TE-11WZ wide-angle zoom (25-60x) eyepiece, via the Kowa IP5 iPhone adapter. The song is “Lex” by Ratatat.

  • Very cool slow-motion stuff Andy!

  • Andrew McGann

    Thanks Drew! It’s amazing what you can do with “just” an iPhone and a spotting scope. (But maybe the time is coming for me to invest in a sturdier fluid-head tripod…)

  • Carl

    Great video Andrew! In the 3 hours I was there, the bird only visited the Bunker Pond once and was only loafing on the beach once.

  • Saphine

    Nice! I wish I could see it but it’s about 9 and a half hours, give or take.