Friday, 23 June 2017

Terns Fishing

Last weekend I went for a walk along the beach at the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, where there were a flock of common and arctic terns chasing after a shoal of tiny fish in a shallow bay. There were about forty terns in the flock and all were dipping and flitting in their determined efforts to capture fish to bring back to their chicks, which were in the ternery on the northern shore of the estuary, about a kilometre away.

I stood less than fifty metres away from the birds as their repeated diving drove the fish into shore.

All their eyes were focused n the fish, not me.

Not all dives were successful.

But every dive was spectacular.

The fish were several centimetres below the surface, so the birds had to partially submerge to catch them.

And breaking free from the water required strong wings.

Many of the birds were ringed, most probably by members of the local Grampian Ringing Group, with rings supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology. Ringing these birds helps to determine where they migrate to, what waters they fish in - need to fish in when on migration, and how long they live. All of which helps to assess the viability of the local breeding colony and the general conservation of the species.

Dashing, splashing, paddling.

Then one last push with their webbed feet and they had their reward.

Oh, what a feeling.

The fishing was good and there were well fed chicks that afternoon.

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