Sunday, June 23, 2013

One good tern deserves another

I'm not quite sure quite how many, but there are hundreds of them on The Skerries at this time of the year. They are amazing birds with a delicate buoyant flight that changes dramatically as they plunge like darts into the sea in search of sand eels.

Arctic terns undergo a seemingly exhausting migration cycle. From their breeding grounds in northern and sub-Arctic Europe they fly to South Africa and South America for the winter, effectively enjoying a lifetime of summers.

This extraordinary migratory pattern is unique to this bird and ensures that Arctic terns see more daylight in a year that any other living thing.

Their nests on the ground are extremely vulnerable. If you get too close to their nests they will fly and swoop at you whilst uttering a sharp squawk. It is not uncommon to get struck on the head with their sharp bill, which is quite capable of drawing blood.

Video clip - Olly Sanders -

RSPB wardens keep an eye on the Skerries terns throughout the breeding season from May until mid-August and are usually happy to show a small number of paddlers around. If you do go, take care to keep away from any nesting areas and approach the lighthouse via the steps on the south side.

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