14 June 2017

Elegant Tern twitch: 14 June

I'm not one for twitching in general, but today I decided to twitch the Elegant Tern that has taken up residence in the tern colony in Pagham Harhour. I arrived at Church Norton to learn that the bird had flown out to sea, but after what seemed like an age scanning the terns on Tern Island I caught a glimpse of it dropping down into the colony. About an hour later it eventually showed very well, though distantly, on and off throughout the afternoon in flight over Tern Island as well as resting on the mudflats and bathing late afternoon.

A large tern, larger than Sandwich Tern and about twice the size of Common Tern, with a long pale orange decurved bill merging into yellowish at the tip, black cap and shaggy crest, black legs with 1 white or pale ring on lower right leg and a pale (but slightly darker) ring on the left leg (the rings were clearly visible even when the bird was in flight). In flight, the blackish wedge on the primaries, medium length forked tail and white rump were noted and at one point the bird seemed to be displaying in flight - holding its wings in a shallow 'V'. The bird was also seen on a few occasions on Tern Island (though very obscured) and seemed to calling.

Also seen in Pagham Harbour: many Little Tern, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern around Tern Island, 20+ (17+ ad., 2 1st-S, 1+ 2nd-S) Mediterranean Gull on Tern Island (though many more were probably present), 4 Red Knot (including 1 in full red summer plumage), 1 Grey Plover (ad. summer), 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 1 prob Bar-tailed Godwit (distant in heat haze), 2 Peregrine (on island NW of Tern Island), 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3+ Little Egret, 1 Barn Swallow, 2 Grey Heron, 3 Shelduck, 1 ad Great Black-backed Gull, lots of Black-headed Gulls (many with chicks on Tern Island), and 1 ad. Herring Gull.

Checked out the shingle at Church Norton that seemed much more vegetated than it did when I first came here as a kid, and was covered with flowering Yellow Horned-poppy Glaucium flavum, Sea kale Crambe maritima, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia and Bittersweet (Woody Nightshade) Solanum dulcamara.

Last but not least, a Spitfire flying high overhead helped break the monotony of scanning through terns for hours on end.

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