Friday, 3 July 2015

Gull-billed tern, Burton Mere Wetlands

News of a gull-billed tern at Burton Mere Wetlands late afternoon meant a premature end to the working day and a dash down the M56 to the RSPB reserve. The reason for the haste was that the species notoriously doesn't hang around for long, and as it was a new UK bird for me, it was a bird I desperately wanted to see. My only previous gull-billed terns were at Canada de las Norias in Almeria, Spain in 1995.

The bird had initially been seen from the Inner Marsh Farm Hide but on our arrival we were dismayed to hear that it had flown to the reception hide where it had stayed for a few minutes before flying again in the direction of the IMF hide but there was uncertainty as to whether it had landed or continued past the hide and onto the saltmarsh. We needn't have worried though, as we made our way to IMF we passed birders coming back who confirmed that the bird had indeed landed and was still in front of the hide.

It was still there when we finally reached the hide, and after a brief look through a mates scope which was already on the bird, we were able to sit back and relax and watch the bird. Unfortunately it didn't do much, just stood with its back to us for most of the time, in amongst the black-headed gulls, but at least it wasn't asleep. Occasionally it changed position slightly or moved its head so that we could see its bill. It wasn't a bad view, but it could have been a little more accomodating I suppose, and given us better views, but at the start of the day I'd have taken any view of a gull-billed tern. This was a long awaited addition to my UK list, and is presumably the same bird which has been seen at several locations over the past couple of weeks, from Nottinghamshire to Yorkshire to Cornwall to mid Wales yesterday.

UK: 411; Year: 232 (Gull-billed tern). I've now seen an amazing 30 new species for the UK in the past 30 months.

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