Sunday, 21 April 2013

21st April: Whiskered Terns Shapwick Heath NNR

This morning I was woken by a text message from Steve Miller alerting me to the presence of 2 Whiskered Terns that he had just found on Noah's Lake at Shapwick. Now normally, I would have been at that site myself around that time, but I was over the other side of the county having spent the night before celebrating my stepdads 50th birthday (Happy Birthday Kev!!). Fortunately the birds found the area to their liking and were still present when I finally arrived a few hours later. As is usual for terns on Noah's, they were feeding mainly on the far side of the lake from the path and hide and so were too distant for any good photographs, views through the telescope were excellent though, and I got a great look at these rare visitors of which there have been only 5 previous Somerset records.

They were very distinct in shape from the 6 Arctic Terns that were also present, with a short tail and broader wings. When seen at the right angle, plumage differences were also obvious. Whiskered Terns have a very dark grey belly, and their upperwings are silvery in contrast to their dark back. These features just about show up in my very poor photos.

The short tail

dark underbelly

silvery wings
The last Whiskered Tern I saw was back in May 2008 when one was found at Radipole Lake in Dorset. This bird showed much closer and I got some quite nice photos which give a much better impression of the bird.

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