Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Rain Brings in the Terns

17th April - a weather front moved through the region last night and this morning and I was hopeful that the associated rain might bring in some good terns or gulls to the pit.

I arrived at about 9am as the rain was beginning to ease, but I still needed a brolly to avoid getting soaked.  A large pale tern was sitting on the spit in front of the island with six Common Terns - an adult summer Sandwich Tern - a good start and my second here this spring.  I attempted a record shot through the rain and murk and you can just about make it out.

About 5 minutes later and this group of terns took off and departed over the southern hedge, I assume back to the river where they had probably come from.  Shortly later, the rain began to pour again, so maybe they moved off ahead of this.  The Sandwich did not return during the rest of the morning.

3 Yellow Wagtails were also working their way around the spit, which was a year tick.  They remained until the rain stopped, when 2 flew off north followed 5 minutes later by the third.  Again, a poor record shot in bad conditions shows 2 of the 3 birds.

It was now about 9:40am and the weather was showing distinct signs of improving.  I noticed a long-tailed commic tern arrive fairly high from the river in the south-east corner and sure enough it was a nice adult Arctic Tern.  It flew fairly high over the lake on the eastern side and then descended on to the near spit where I was able to grab a couple of reasonable records.  The long projecting tail streamers can be seen as well as the blood red bill, which unusually had a blackish tip.  The ridiculously short legs are hidden by a stick.

The Arctic and many of the Commons appeared to depart to the south about 30 minutes later, presumably going back to the river.  I decided to check the meadow and whilst doing this Mick M phoned to say he was on site.  I walked back across the railway to the lake and noticed an Arctic Tern was back on the spit just as Mick phoned me - I answered 'Have you seen it?' to which he replied, 'I've just had a Short-eared Owl in the south-east corner being mobbed by hirundines, but I've lost it!'  What! I quickly went back to the meadow and scanned eastwards, but nothing, back to the lake looking east, nothing.  I made my way back to the bench and Mick and spent the next 30 minutes scanning, but the Owl was not seen again.  The Arctic Tern had taken to flying around the south-east corner with Commons (maximum number seen was 12), so I walked around and got fantastic views to a few yards as it flew backwards and forwards.  I tried some record shots with a hand held - shame I don't have a proper DSLR as it would have been very photogenic.

I carried on around the pit and came across my first Sedge Warbler of the year, a little late, singing in reeds in the north-east corner.

So a productive morning.  The same Arctic Tern was still present at 3pm when I made a quick visit before school pick-up.  However, an Arctic Tern seen in the evening had an obvious broken tail streamer, so is a different bird to this one.

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