Saturday, 1 August 2009

Brownsea Island Roseate Tern

Roseate tern has been one of my target birds for this year that I really wanted to see. The best place is a small island off the coast of Northumberland but that's quite a journey from Oxford so I had been keeping an eye on nearer sightings, looking for something twitchable. I had noticed several reports of a pair of Roseates at Brownsea Island and I did wonder whether they might be breeding there. This suspicion was confirmed when a recent Bird Guides report mentioned two adults and a juvenile. I needed no further encouragement and planned a trip down there.

The two hour journey was uneventful and I soon found myself at 09:30am waiting for the first ferry to take me across to the island. Whilst waiting I watched the common and sandwich terns passing by. It was interesting to notice the differences with the sandwich terns which were of course bigger but flew with a less elegant flight, looking more "angular" and also surprisingly much paler compared to the commons.

Once over on the island I made my way towards the hides. There was someone from the Dorset Wildlife Trust collecting ticket money for the hides and I asked about the whereabouts of the roseate terns and was told to go to the Mac Hide and to look across to the far side for a small green box where they were nesting. Armed with this information I duely made my way to the hide and started scanning. A scan of the far side revealed quite a large number of tern shelters, some of them like miniature roofs and others boxes. There were only a couple of terns loitering over there and neither of them were roseates. After another couple of scans to make sure I started to wonder whether this was going to be a massive dip and decided to see what else was about. There was a very large (several hundred) flock of black-tailed godwits and good numbers of redshank with a few greenshank for good measure. There were also about 20 or so dunlin sprinkled about the place as were a dozen or so avocets. Carefully scanning the far bank revealed a pair of ringed plover and also two adult Mediterranean Gulls in amongst the other gulls along the far lagoon wall.

At this point a couple entered the hide and were asking about the roseate tern. I told them what I knew and decided that it was about time to have another scan. Almost immediately I found an adult bird sitting on top of one of the green boxes and the juvenile would occasionally pop out from inside the box to see if there was any food on offer. The birds were along way away and there was a fair bit of heat haze but it was sunny so my digiscoping efforts didn't come out too badly, especially after a bit of post processing.

The adult roseate tern

With the juvenile roseate tern out of its box

Very pleased with having connected with this elegant tern I eventually made my way to the other hide in order to take some photos. The godwits were obligingly close as were the avocets and I spent a good hour digiscoping and videoing away. One of the highlights was a juvenile peregrine which I first picked up flying in the distance over the back of the lagoon before it changed direction and swooped low over the lagoon straight towards the hide scattering the waders in all directions. It didn't manage to catch anything but it was most exciting.

Feeding avocet
Avocet in classic pose. Black and white birds are harder to get the autofocus to lock in on so I was pleased that these came out so well.

Posing black-tailed godwit

A feeding black-tailed godwit

One of the common terns that were nesting in front of the hide.

Some video of one of the black-tailed godwits feeding in front of the hide

This bird was perched on this post whilst I was waiting for the return ferry. I just used the camera on its own (no digiscoping) as the bird was only a yard or two away from me. I love the slightly menacing feel to this shot and the interesting perspective of having the bird so close with the house in the background.

It was about a year ago that I first went to Brownsea and it's pleasing to see how my digiscoping has progressed since then with some photos that I can be most pleased with. Of course Brownsea is a photographer's paradise with normally distant waders being amazingly close.

Another tick for the year list and in fact a lifer for me. I've now managed to see all five breeding terns as well as black and black-winged terns this year.

National Year List 2009
209 Roseate Tern Brownsea Island, Dorset

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