Rarity finders: Elegant Tern in Dorset


I had already planned on doing my regular circuit of RSPB Lodmoor, Dorset, on Monday 24 April, but as I was getting breakfast Daragh Croxson (the almost-resident Lodmoor birder) phoned to say that there were two Black-winged Stilts on West Scrape. This speed up breakfast and the few chores I had to do – I was soon looking at the stilts with several other birders and photographers.

After a while I came back down the west side of the site, around past the sluices to the viewing shelter. There was a group of Sandwich Terns – four or five – on the mud behind the 'tern islands'. Several Common Terns came in off the bay, did a noisy circuit and flew off out to sea again. I took another look at the Sandwich Terns and was surprised to see that one of them had a yellow bill!

John Wall was able to capture stunning images of the Elegant Tern (John Wall).

Knowing that Daragh was not far away I phoned him and he soon came back to the shelter. The battery on his camera had died so I took a few shots with my little compact camera. Daragh phoned one of the photographers near the stilts to get someone to come and get good photos of the bird. It would have been easily missed because it seemed to be having naps with its bill tucked in. The cavalry soon arrived and we watched the bird for perhaps 10 minutes before it flew off past us and out into the bay.

There was much discussion about the species we'd seen. John Wall showed one of his flight photos which showed the long bill and white rump – it was thought to be an Elegant Tern. We were lucky that there were people around with decent cameras to record it – what a bird!

Geoff initially picked the tern up while it was loafing with Sandwich Terns and gulls (Geoff Barlow).

Written by: Geoff Barlow

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