I had just left the motel when I realized I had left my camera behind. I debated going back for it, but since the motel was only a few minutes down the road I didn't bother. Big mistake!
I arrived at the lagoons and started birding. There was a good variety of ducks around (wigeon, shoveler, redhead, etc) and a Peregrine Falcon blazing by overhead. I watched a Merlin chase a Least Sandpiper and found a sheltered spot out of the wind when I heard a familiar call that I couldn't place.
The bird kept calling as it flew, and eventually came close overhead - a Marbled Godwit! The gulls in the area weren't too happy in its presence and chased it around a bit. I tried taking a picture with my phone (at times the bird was quite close!) but was unsuccessful. Eventually the MAGO had enough and disappeared back the way it came, dropping into the fenced in sewage ponds.
A little while later, the call of a Bonaparte's Gull alerted me again, and a flock of 9 wheeled by into view. Bringing up the rear was a small white tern. My thought process was something like this:
Cool, a tern!
Probably a Common Tern, would be a new Algoma District bird for me :)
Man, this tern has a long tail and bouncy flight...
(Looks through bins)
Gray body, tiny bill, definitely a long tail, limited black primary tips...this is no Common Tern...
Well ****, it's an Arctic f***ing Tern!
The tern continued to fly around as the gulls landed on the water and I basked in its Arctic glory. It was one of those bittersweet moments...it was super exciting to find a rarity completely unexpected, but at the same time I had no other birders with me, and no camera. The bird flew close on a number of occasions and I could have definitely nailed some awesome photos. Eventually I just had to go back to get my camera after 15 minutes of watching it. I went to the hotel, was back in less than 15 minutes, and returned to see that the tern (as well as the 9 bonies) were nowhere to be seen. I checked the fenced in area too, but no luck there.
I think this would be the first record for Algoma District, and possibly the Ontario side of Lake Superior. This just in, apparently Alan Wormington just found 2 Arctic Terns at Hurkett Cove (near Nipigon) which is the first record for Thunder Bay District. Something weird is going on!!
This was only my second ever Arctic Tern for Ontario, and the first "self found". The only other one I have seen was the one that the rest of the crew found in James Bay last summer while I was making dinner.