Caspians are Cool

by Carl Strang

Last week, the lakes at Mayslake Forest Preserve were the fishing grounds for a Caspian tern, which on Friday was joined by a second individual. My dominant impression of these birds is their swept back profile in flight.

This photo of one of last week’s birds captures that shape, which I think is just too cool.

They were there on business, coursing over the lakes, looking down, and frequently pivoting on a wing into a vertical dive.

Wings folded, the tern is utterly committed to an impact with the water.

Caspian terns are large enough to make a significant splash.

Not as loud as when an osprey hits, but the sound is audible for a good distance.

They frequently came up empty, but were successful often enough (perhaps 1 out of 15 or 20 dives) to justify their focus on these lakes.

I could tell it was a fish at the time, but couldn’t narrow down the identity of the catch until I looked at the photos.

The fish’s round profile and extended fins narrowed the possibilities.

The prey was a sunfish, but I can’t say whether it was a bluegill or a green sunfish.

The only thing to mar the whole graceful, forceful impression left by these birds was their voice. Their calls were very loud, rasping and unpleasant. They were like some actor or actress in silent pictures whose screechy voice blocked a transition to the talkies.

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