The Southern Tip of the Island at Holgate, closed all Summer to support the birds that nest there, is open to foot traffic. Hooray! This year, the big action in nesting was the Least Tern, so that was the bird I went to see. When I found a big group about half way in they were going nuts.
The Tern were flittering around and squawking, many with fish in their beaks. They weren’t eating them, and they weren’t feeding them to their young. They were wiggling them around like ravers with glow sticks.
This type of festivity is the hallmark of Tern dating (courtship). Apparently you can really turn on a Tern with a big fish that wiggles. But the season is over, so what are they up to?
I checked with Todd Pover, our beach nesting bird hero, from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ (please donate!). He confirms that this is mating behavior, but also that it is too late in the season for mating. But he also noted that the terns still hanging around Holgate are part of a very late colony.
Sounds like we have have a group of slacker, partying Least Tern hanging around Holgate and trying to squeeze every last drop out of Summer 2013. Just like some of us.
I hope these kids don’t lollygag too long dating and playing with their fish on Holgate, because migration is serious, life or death business. But we can certainly understand. I’ve been known to put off some life or death business for just one more weekend on LBI myself.