Monday, 22 June 2015

Gull-billed Tern

Woke up late, well I was up at 3:30 to turn off the moth trap, it was beautiful then too, 50% clear skies, lovely clouds, should have gone and taken a picture really, but then I would have not got back to sleep and I bet I wouldn't have seen the Gull-billed Tern.

Instead, I slept in, had tea and toast and went birding at 10:00. Cora came to Palace with me and we checked the beaches, well JB had two Little Stints and a Red-necked Phal the other day (on Papay).  Then I checked the gardens, well N Ron had Marsh and Iccy Warblers. A further check of the north beach... all this produced 9 Sanderling, a Dunlin and a couple of smart Turnstone. There were four broods of Eider and one of Shelduck, hopefully a brood I'd not seen before and not one of the large broods reduced to just four. Anyway after all that I was thinking of going home but then I hadn't checked the Northside gardens and I hadn't looked at the Skiba Geo Arctic Terns for a fortnight.

Plenty of food, not sure what this fish is mind


So there I am minding my own business, checking the Arctics. These folk in front of me have a fancy camera and they're presumably getting some nice pictures of the terns and of this Oystercatcher and her chicks on the front edge of the rock...

The terns were coming back and forth fairly frequently so I started scanning towards The Brough to see where they were fishing and that's when I first clocked the GBT, 400 metres out.

Here's what I've written in the circumstances for the BB RC description:
"The terns seemed to be bringing in small fish quite regularly so I started scanning the bay towards Brough of Birsay to see where they were fishing. I quickly noted a distant tern, about 400 metres away, flying slowly south, as if it was feeding, it was clearly not an Arctic Tern. I tried to get on to the tern with my scope and failed dismally, went back to the bins and could not relocate the bird. About two or three minutes later the tern reappeared in the bay closer, at about 200 metres. This time I felt confident about my identification and drew the attention of the photographers to the bird. Although they had binoculars and were photographing the terns these folk didn’t really know what I was talking about, unfortunately. I was slightly distracted by trying to get the other folk on to the bird and in that moment the tern apparently vapourised again. I scanned about and couldn’t find it. After a few minutes I went back to looking at the Arctic Terns but kept an eye on the bay. However, in a short time, a couple of minutes maybe, the Gull-billed Tern flew slowly south again right through the Arctic Tern colony at about 50 metres or so. This time the bird kept going, south along the cliff edge, then over the fields until it was out of view near Point of Buckquoy. Actual observation time was probably less than 2 minutes overall. Despite the note on Birdguides that it was “hawking over fields” this was never the case and was not what I put in the text when I called it in. The bird was not observed to actively feed at any time, it was basically “mooching about” the Arctic Tern colony, in no hurry. When it finally flew off it was in the same leisurely manner.

The camera was sitting by me the whole time but I elected to observe carefully, I’m not great at flight photos and previous experience has taught me to confirm the identification with good observation before going for the camera and potentially getting neither pictures nor all the salient features required for a confirmed identification."

Whoa! that was some good bird!


AndyC said...

Great find, looks like its turned up again today ,hope you get some pics...You will be on 300 finds soon at this rate..well done..great birding

Nick Carter said...

Fantastic birding :)