Tuesday, 7 July 2009

And then there was one

I should know better than to get excited about breeding success until the young have fully fledged. The two pairs of Common Terns I’m watching had produced an excellent three chicks each but the weeks, or some predator or other, have taken their toll. First the smaller chick of the large brood disappeared leaving on 26th June two quite large chicks with flight feathers in good shape and three bundles of fluff for the second brood. Over that weekend one large and one small chick was taken and by the end of the week we were down to one chick from the second brood. I don’t know what is taking them but I think the large chick was much too big for an avian predator so, as has happened at Big Waters, perhaps Otter success has its downside.

Anyway I walked up to the hide last night and was glad to be dive bombed as I passed the nest site indicating that the adult birds still had something to protect. I set the scope up and scanned the raft but couldn’t see anything so assumed chick was hiding under the corner shelters but after ½ an hour no sign. Then I saw an unmoving patch of fluff on the far side of the shingle that had been gathered in the centre of the raft. I feared the youngster had died but the parents were still landing although bringing no food. Then a movement and the fluff bundle raised a head, then a beak appeared and a stubby wing was raised to preen. Having prepared itself the youngster stood up and looked around. Parents paid no notice even when the young leaned toward them waiting for a beak of food. It was late in the day and he/she was growing well so plenty of feeds must have been given already. ‘Ah well’ it appeared to sigh and tried preening beneath its wing again only to nearly fall over. This seemed to I enliven the youngster and it trundled across the raft to peer over the edge at the water. The bird looked as if it was going to jump up onto the edge rail then promptly turned and headed for the middle of the shingle pile. There it stood, looked around, then jumped up flapping its little wings like mad but, getting no lift, landed back squarely on both feet. It paused for a moment, yawned then settled down again to snooze. Meanwhile the parents were in a frenzy as another bird seemed to tease them flying past with a fish in its beak and a pair of Great Crested Grebe were getting amorous in the weed nearby. Let’s hope that the full attention of both adult birds can bring about the desired result.

On the Prestwick Carr front, did a count on Saturday morning which produced some good numbers of young birds particularly Whitethroat and there were more than one hundred Swifts in the air who were joined by a wandering Common Tern who fished in Pringles fishing pond before moving on. This used to be a regular summer occurrence however has declined in recent years possibly due to the breeding demise at Big Waters or the formation of other larger fishing ponds in the area. Anyway the list struggles on…….

91 Common Tern

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