Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A Quick Question

Terns.

I've seen them.
You've seen them.
Everyone's seen them.


Yet recently, I started to wonder:

I have seen them in flight over sea, coast and river, over marshes, fields and mountains, from arctic tundra to desert coast.
I have seen them perched on tree, stone and sand bar, seen them sitting on ship, pole and birder's head.
I saw them dive into waves, deep seas and shallow estuaries, man made waters and white-raging rivers.

But I have never seen them swim.
Anywhere, really.

Neither on sea, lake or river, and certainly never on a birder's head.


Have you?
In life or on a photograph?

16 comments:

Patrick Belardo said...

Hmm... not that I can recall...

Rick said...

Forster's and Common Terns actually loaf on the water pretty commonly. I've seen it on the east coast and west in North America, often enough not to give it a second thought, but now that I ponder the question, I don't think I've ever seen a swimming tern inland.
Best,
rick

Gallicissa said...

Not really.

Will said...

Is this one of those "If a Tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise" type questions?

But to answer, no I've never seen them swim. Wade... yes, but swim no.

Will said...

Is this one of those "If a Tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise" type questions?

But to answer, no I've never seen them swim. Wade... yes, but swim no.

Rick said...

There's a difference between floating and swimming, of course--if you mean power paddling, no, I've never seen it before. But they do bob around on the water when they're loafing.

Carrie said...

I saw some sitting on the water whilst on my San Diego pelagic, but not actively propelling themselves. And I can't recall ever seeing one sit on fresh water or even on brackish water. So my sightings are in accord with Rick's.

John said...

I can't picture any specific occasions of this, but I think I have seen terns rest on the water along the Atlantic coast. They were probably Forster's or Common Terns. I can't remember if the Black Terns at Cape May rested on the surface of Bunker Pond or stood on a sand spit.

Jochen said...

@Patrick: welcome to the club!

@Rick: thanks for the info!! I don't know how that question came up but once it was there, I first searched my mental memory in earnest and then some 600+ photos of terns on the Internet and found nothing, nada. Of course I expect them to at least loaf, they're too "aquatic" a group to be complete non-swimmers, but now I will really concentrate on seeing one loaf. Living quite a few hundred k's from the coast, that might be a bit difficult, but we'll see...

@Gallicissa: thanks, I am starting to think it might be more common in North America, although I see no reason why this should be so and I guess once again, I call thought what others would call folly...

@Will. I am a firm supporter a falling tree in the woods where no one is around still makes a noise, a deep and resonant "pilllll-e-ated cawhooomp". Thanks for your answer!

@Rick 2: again, thank you for the information! Those tiny feet would make for a very slow motion anyway, I suppose :-)

@Carrie: hmmmm, so maybe they don't like to swim/float but will do so far away from the coast where the water surface is all they have when they get tired or fed up with flying? But wait, they were close to your boat, so there were birder's heads to perch on. Intriguing...

@John: you see, that was precisely my line of thought: "I am sure they do it and I must therefore surely have seen it, it appears so obvious, but I can't picture any specific occasion."
And after even the Internet couldn't picture any specific occasion, I decided to ask around.
Thanks for your input!!

Laurent said...

Good to see you back Jochen!!!

To your question, I answer "why would they"?

I'm guessing they need to be in the air to find a prey underwater, so swimming seems to be like a complete waste of energy to me.

Laurent

Jochen said...

Hi Laurent!
Your blog is doing amazingly good these days by the way.

Yes, you are likely right and I suppose that's why they do it so rarely that I have never noticed it.

ivy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jochen said...

Can anyone explain to me why some of my posts are recently getting loads of comments from Asia I cannot read?

Larry said...

No-but thanks for putting that though into my head.Now I'll be looking for a swimming tern.I've received those weird messages before myself.Probably some kind of spam-not the Monty Python variety.

Hilke Breder said...

I agree, I have never seen a tern swim. By the way, comments from Asia, it's full of hyperlinks to partially dressed Asian beauties.

Jochen said...

@Larry: thanks, and let us know when / if you see one!

@Hilke: yes, so it must be unusual. And by "partially dressed Asian beauties" you surely mean beautiful Asian songbirds in various stages of molt?

:-)

Cheers and thanks, I'll be deleting them soon...