Thursday 17th May – One good tern deserves another   Leave a comment

Regular readers of this blog may be forgiven for thinking that I must have gone into hibernation. The truth is I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this week, but have taken the time indoors to reorganise and file several years worth of birding journals and sort out my large library of bird books. Just in time too as I found that the existing shelving is coming away from the wall and the whole lot is threatening to crash down on my PC.

I have also completed a job I should have done at the end of 2011, write-up my trip to Ethiopia last November. It’s all done now, if anyone wants a copy then please e-mail me.

I did escape to do some birding on Thursday. News of a Roseate Tern at Lodmoor in Weymouth had me heading there before you could say Sterna dougallii.On arrival I found that the Rosy had gone but as it may have just gone to Weymouth Bay to feed, I hung around. While I was waiting I had plenty of time to admire the 70+ Common Terns present, many of whom were involved in courtship feeding or were copulating, a group of a dozen migrant Sandwich Tern and a single Arctic Tern. The latter bird has been returning to this Common Tern colony for the past four years and attempts to breed with a Common Tern. There is something about this Arctic Tern that doesn’t look quite right, maybe it has a few Common Tern genes mixed in there, but I was having it as a year tick anyway (although they will be abundant when we go ‘up north’ so I don’t have to worry).

These artificial islands at Lodmoor have been highly succesful for breeding Common Terns. The ‘half pipes’ are to allow the chicks to shelter and avoid predation from Kestrels etc.

Terns at a colony undergo what is called ‘dreads’, suddenly all taking off together when there is no apparent predator on view.

Most terns do not return from their African wintering grounds until they are two years old. The bird on the lower left with a white forehead is a first summer bird that has returned early. This plumage was first noted at Portland many years ago and was called the ‘portlandica’ phase until it was realised it was just the normal first summer plumage. Behind the terns 1 Whimbrel and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and an out of focus Dunlin the foreground.


On the basis that having seen the Arctic Tern then ‘one good tern deserved another’, I hung on for about two hours and eventually the Rosy was found on the mud behind the colony. Rosy’s are our rarest breeding terns, with small colonies in Northumberland and Ireland. Although a pair once bred on Brownsea, we see them almost entirely on migration and it was a pleasing addition to the year list.

A black bill, sometimes with a reddish base, paler overall especially on the wings, longer tail feather with white outers and longer legs identify Roseate Tern. Only birds in breeding condition have the rosy flush to the breast. Too far away for photos, so I took this one from the Internet.



As I have said before, this is a funny spring, some birds arrived very early but most very late. For example,the  Ospreys at Loch Garten were on eggs by 7th April and have chicks now, but migrant Ospreys are still arriving along the south coast in mid-May.



A great sequence from this Grey Heron whilst I was waiting. It lunges at an eel, drops it then tries again.The eel is speared but not held securely …….


…. in order to kill it, the heron flies off to dry land with the still struggling eel ……..


…. but having transferred the eel to between its mandibles, the heron is attacked by two crows who persist until the heron flies off ……….


…. and ends up dropping the eel into deep water, end result, one dead or at least injured eel and three hungry birds!


Posted May 19, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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