Wednesday 24 July 2013

In praise of Terns...

The Farne Islands are a wonderful place, and I honestly cannot believe I’ve never set foot there before. Despite spending about ten hours setting foot no further than the jetty, failing to see the Bridled Tern that had attracted me there, I mean that with complete sincerity! Having dipped the tern twice already, I was pretty relaxed about the possibility of it happening again, and determined to enjoy another weekend in a stunning place. There’s just nothing quite like the constant melee of a seabird colony, birds coming and going, loads of noise, the smell – it’s brilliant. Guaranteed to be better than any birding that London could possibly offer!

So, rather repeat the story of a near-dip, I’ll home in on photos of the birds.

First, Arctic Terns. These guys have serious attitude, dive-bombing innocent passers-by to deliver sharp pecks to the head, screaming and shouting at each other (and us), posturing aggressively all the time.


Utterly fearless, if they’re not attacking you, they’ll sit tight however close you get, allowing for some real close-ups – macro lenses are by no means a crazy option here! The short end of my 100-400 zoom was well worth having.


One of the key food items for the terns is sand eels, a species that has declined markedly in the North Sea over the past 30 years, causing concern for conservationists.


Of course, there were good numbers of fairly recently fledged juvenile terns in evidence (and also some smaller chicks that had some growing still to do). These youngsters were much less active, sitting alongside the crowd of patient twitchers, waiting for parents to drop off a tasty morsel or two… or having a nap!


Other terns noted included plenty of Sandwich, a few Commons, a very smart pair of Roseates:



… and some other weird thing that people kept getting very excited about? No idea what this is.


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