Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Gull-billed tern, Martin Mere

Gull-billed tern, Martin Mere. A new bird for the reserve.
I was sat at home this morning with reports to write and the weather looking pretty grim, so I didn't really expect to get out anywhere today. I was keeping half an eye on twitter just in case yesterday evenings stone curlew reappeared at Hale, but I didn't expect it to and I was settled into the house for the day....

Then on about the fourth look at twitter, at about 9:50am, I saw a tweet from Andy Bunting at Martin Mere. "Gull-billed tern just flown in.".... It took me 10 seconds to think about it and then I was up out of my chair and getting my gear together. Two minutes later I was in the car and on the road to Martin Mere. I figured that the bad weather might make the bird stay put until I arrived, but I was also aware that it was forecast to clear by early afternoon so there was no time to waste. Even as I got to the M6 it was starting to clear, I could see brightness in the west. I've missed a few birds in the past by delaying and allowing the weather to clear, so I was getting a bit concerned that this might be another fruitless drive. I arrived on site at at about 10:30am.

The lastest news I had was that the bird had last been seen from the United Utilities hide so I headed in that direction, but almost immediately I met a birder coming back who said it had flown towards the Ron Barker hide. When I got to the Ron Barker hide I was the only birder present and there was no sign of any terns, so I decided to head back to the InFocus hide on the off chance that it might return there.

I arrived at the hide to find scenes of great excitement, as the bird had just been relocated flying around the Mere, and after a few minutes it landed right in front of the hide with a small flock of black-headed gulls allowing great views through the telescope. It only stayed for about two or three minutes though, before it was off again, and this time flew over the hide and was gone. It was now 11:00am, just one hour and 10 minutes since I had seen the initial report on Twitter. At the time of writing it has still not reappeared. The sun is shining outside now, so perhaps it's moved on, or perhaps it will return, if not to Martin Mere, maybe Marshside or Seaforth. As things stand though, my drop everything approach appears to have been justified. The bird had spent just 80 minutes on the reserve before disappearing and about eight birders had managed to connect with it.

A very cosmopolitan species, the last gull-billed tern I saw was at Four Mile beach, Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia.

Update 30/07/2017 - the gull-billed tern has so far not been relocated anywhere in the country.

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