Home
 
 

Rarity finders Royal Tern on Guernsey

 
 

This page contains 1 reader comment. Click here to view (latest Fri 10/02/17 13:34).

On the morning of Saturday 4 February, local birder Andy Marquis discovered that Storm Doris had brought 2 Glaucous Gulls and an Iceland Gull to our local landfill at Chouet. I arrived mid-morning and joined Tony Loaring to search for the birds. The two Glaucous gave themselves up pretty quickly but the Iceland remained elusive. By lunchtime the landfill site had closed, the gull flocks had dispersed and I headed home.

The next morning, I was feeling a little under the weather so, skipping church, I opted instead for a lazy search for the Iceland Gull. Having checked the usual spots, I headed for the north-east tip of the island. One of the Glaucous Gulls had moved to Omptolle, a small island in Miellette Bay, the day before so perhaps the Iceland Gull had found its way there too.

Pulling into the car park at about 12:40, I spotted a tern fairly close in but heading out of the bay. It had to be a Sandwich but I lifted the bins anyway. 'Narrow wings, black cap, black wingtips — wow, they really are black — orange bill ... ORANGE BILL!!'

The bird was heading around the headland so I jumped back in the car and drove through the narrow lanes to the next viewpoint — but no bird. There was surely no way it could have come past already? With excitement now turning to dread, I decided to return to Miellette.

Royal Tern
Jamie's initial fly-by views of the Royal Tern revealed obviously blackish wingtips and, of course, the large orange bill (Photo: Andy Marquis)

I was relieved to find the bird was still there — and what a bird. It was stunning and it was close. In a daze, I reached for my phone, binoculars, camera and Collins Bird Guide all at once. Even 30 years of birding doesn't prepare you for moments like this. I took a number of record shots first and then typed out a group text message to the local birders. Not knowing which species I was dealing with didn't really matter. I selected my preferred choice from the drop-down list and sent out the message as 'Miellette — Royal Tern — unidentified orange-billed tern in bay, 12:50'.

By the time people started arriving, the bird had disappeared. There was some frantic searching along the coast in both directions until, 20 minutes later, it reappeared in the bay. It was a magical moment. By Guernsey standards, this was a big twitch — nearly double figures(!) — and we were able simply to enjoy the experience, knowing that the photographers present were capturing some fantastic images. It was a first-winter bird and, based on its large size and strong bill, was surely a Royal.

It disappeared and reappeared once more and then left the bay again. By now, many birders had seen it but a few key individuals were yet to connect. As the afternoon drew on, I relocated to nearby Petils Bay where I hoped I could intercept the bird as it headed round to Miellette. After an hour, it passed by heading north in the low winter sun so I called ahead to Wayne Turner in the assembled group. By all accounts, I should have been able to hear the loud cheer from where I was.

Perhaps surprisingly, and to the relief of those who had missed out the previous day, the bird was re-found on Guernsey's west coast on Monday morning. Then, after a blank day, it was relocated on Guernsey's east coast today (Wednesday) where we also discovered it was ringed on the right leg. Birds are ringed at several colonies on the Eastern Seaboard of the US yet, according to the BTO, African Royal Terns are also ringed in The Gambia and Senegal. The bird has a preference for sheltered bays and, armed with that knowledge, we'll be out looking for it in the hope of reading the ring (or collecting a feather/faecal sample) in the coming days.


Miellette Bay & Omptolle Island (Photo: Jamie Hooper)


A major twitch, Guernsey style! Taken on Friday 9th. (Photo: Katrina Godfrey)

Royal Tern
A useful size comparison with a Eurasian Curlew (Photo: Andy Marquis)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Andy Marquis)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Anthony Loaring)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Dan Scott)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Dan Scott)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Dan Scott)

Royal Tern
(Photo: Dan Scott)

Related pages

Royal Tern Royal Tern
Guernsey Guernsey


Related articles

Rarity finders Elegant Tern in Hampshire Rarity finders Elegant Tern in Hampshire
Dedicated Hampshire patch-worker Andy Johnson on the discovery of another top-class vagrant on Hayling Island. read on read on
Rarity finders Lesser Kestrel on Noss, Shetland Rarity finders Lesser Kestrel on Noss, Shetland
Noss wardens Craig Nisbet and Andrew Denton were pleased eneough to have found what they thought was a Common Kestrel on Shetland; little did they know what the photos would reveal once posted online. read on read on
Rarity finders Spectacled Warbler on Portland, Dorset Rarity finders Spectacled Warbler on Portland, Dorset
Andy Davidson recounts a memorable afternoon at Portland Bill where, among a fall of migrants, he found Britain's ninth Spectacled Warbler. read on read on
Rarity finders Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs Rarity finders Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs
Twelve-year-old Joe Fryer demonstrated great nous to find and identify a Black-browed Albatross at the famous Yorkshire reserve of Bempton Cliffs. read on read on
Rarity finders Red-winged Blackbird on North Ronaldsay Rarity finders Red-winged Blackbird on North Ronaldsay
Simon Davies' persistence during a month of challenging weather conditions on North Ronaldsay paid off with a prize as big as it gets — a potentially new British bird. read on read on


The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (1)

#1
Superb find, I can feel the exhilaration through the screen!
   Paul Downes, 10/02/17 13:34Report inappropriate post Report 

Back to top Back to top

Latest edition Latest edition
Search articles Search articles
All articles All articles
Popular articles Popular articles
 
   
 
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Cookie Policy | About us | Advertise | Contact us
BirdGuides, Warners Group Publications PLC, The Chocolate Factory, 5 Clarendon Road, London N22 6XJ
© 2017 BirdGuides and Warners Group Publications plc. All Rights Reserved. Company Registered in England no. 2572212 | VAT registration No. GB 638 3492 15
Sales: or tel. 0800 919391 · International Sales: +44 (0)1778 391180 · Office: or tel. 020 8826 0934
 
   

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites