Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A Tern Returns?

A very quiet day birdwise, but not without interest for all that. As I opened up the Tern hide it was noticeable that the hirundines today were mostly sand martin, with just a few swallow and house martin, in all probably no more than two hundred. A single common sandpiper was the only wader I could see and the few wildfowl included 3 Egyptian geese.

The Ivy Lake side of the reserve was not much more interesting, although a single lesser whitethoat in the coppiced willows was the first I have seen in this area, there were also one or two blackcap and several chiffchaff. A flock of perhaps 50 house martin calling as they flew high south over the lake looked as though they were on the move.

Prior to heading off the the office at Beechcroft I dropped into the Tern hide for one last look and I was pleased I did. A single common tern was perched on the posts outside the hide, not rare, although it is a few days since there has been one on the reserve. This tern was more interesting though, it was not an adult and yet not one of this year's juveniles, it was just over a year old, mostly with adult feathers but retaining dark wing-coverts and a short tail with dark grey outer feathers. Most common terns in their first year stay at or near the wintering areas off West Africa. Birds this age were though very rare in British waters at one time and perhaps they were, nowadays they are not rare, but always worthy of note. This is the first such bird I have seen at Blashford, it is just possibly it is one of last year's youngsters from the rafts on Ivy Lake popping back for a quick check on the old homeplace, more likely just a passing migrant, but you never know.
The different ages of the feathers show quite clearly in the picture with the newest feathers being the palest grey ones and those with unworn white edging. The white edged of feather wear off quite quickly as dark pigments are more hard-wearing than pale ones, it is no accident that many seabirds have black wing-tips.

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