UK - the Farne Islands, terns

  • nkgray
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3 years 8 months ago #86681 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: UK - the Farne Islands, terns
There are 4 species of tern that can be seen in the Farne Islands, in decreasing abundance Arctic, Sandwich, Common <!-- s:? --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon/confused.gif" alt=":?" title="Confused" /><!-- s:? --> and Roseate. The last-named can be counted on one hand but I did see a pair of this British rarity (lifer) after an obliging National Trust warden pointed them out. They then flew off as the greater mass of Arctic Tern took fright and flew off before I got a photo. The other three species all breed in the Farnes. I only saw one Common Tern that I could positively I.D.

This is because separating them from Arctic Terns is not that easy when confronted with hundreds of birds. Both birds are the same size, both have red beaks and red legs. I hope the following image does show the differences. The Arctic Tern has an all red ('purple-red') beak whereas the Common Tern has a black-tipped orange-red beak. The Arctic is shorter-legged, appearing to 'stand' on its belly, and is distinctly longer-tailed.

The Arctic Terns wheel around in noisy groups, such that it is almost impossible just to get a single individual in frame.

They also disappear and return with the sand eels favoured by the puffins and guillemots.

On the island of Inner Farne the National Trust have created boardwalks flanked by small poles topped with blue ropes, to make sure that the visiting public stay where the birds don't nest - but, the Arctic Terns create nests right up against the edges of the boardwalk. All along the boardwalk you must run the gauntlet of screeching birds warning you off their nests.

At two points it is duck and run and expect a few pecks to your head. Age wins you no respite as my 89-year old father discovered when he almost lost his hat to one attacker.

There is no mistaking the Sandwich Tern as it a much bigger bird with a yellow-tipped black bill. It also nests separately to the other terns, but also on the ground in grass-lined depressions.


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  • Doug
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3 years 7 months ago #86690 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: UK - the Farne Islands, terns
Nice collection of tern shots.

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