Bird #175 — Common Tern

sterna (tern) hirundo (swallow)

Thursday, July 21, 1980 — 12:30 pm

Waukegan, Illinois — Waukegan Harbor — Lake Michigan

Waukegan Harbor is not a very picturesque place.  Factories and warehouses crowd the lakefront area, interspersed with parking lots and railroad tracks.  The harbor mouth consists of two parallel cement breakwaters extending close to a half mile out into the lake.

Dave, Larry and I did not feel like painting curbs this day, but it wasn’t our fault.  The hot line reported two Whimbrels on the beach in Waukegan, and we couldn’t be expected to work under those conditions.

After a successful search for the Whimbrels, we stopped at the harbor a mile to the south.  We hiked out on one of the breakwaters.  On the other breakwater, across the harbor channel, a large flock of gulls and terns were lined up near the far end. The Common Terns were standing amidst the other birds.  Occasionally, one would fly off over the lake and flap around, usually about 15 feet above the surface.  I saw one dive into the harbor channel.  It went straight down and disappeared completely under the surface for about three seconds.  On the breakwater, two were mating, one standing upright on the other’s back before crouching to mate.

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