Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Caspian Tern - Acre Nook Sand Quarry, Cheshire, 26th July 2013

Caspian Tern, Acre Nook Sand Quarry, Chelford - Friday 26th July 2013

I got some very satisfying views of the Caspian Tern in Cheshire on the evening of Friday 26th July. I nearly got better views of it in Staffordshire, at Rudyard Reservoir, where it had been all day, but it flew strongly NW just five minutes before I arrived...

The bird had roosted at Acre Nook Sand Quarry on the previous two nights, some 11 miles to the NW in Cheshire. So after trying to explain how to get there to a satnav-less fellow latecomer, I said "Follow me!" and set off.

The traipsing through unfamiliar territory after a tick, in convey, in fading light, in desperation, is one of the joys of twitching. If you connect at the end of it, of course.

And, yes, the Caspo had arrived before we did. It was sat amongst a gull roost of Lesser Black-backed, Common, and Black-headed Gulls, with Lapwing, Curlew and Starlings too. And, boy, did the tern stick out?! It was a bulky, muscular thing, dwarfing the BHGs and Common Gulls, looking similar in size to the LBBGs.

The key feature was that bill. A massive orange-red carrot, visible with the naked eye, even at distance in poor light. The black cap had a white/speckled area at the front, suggesting a young bird. It flew a couple of times, allowing us to appreciate the size and strength of the bird. Very impressive.

It had a good wash and preen, and I got some crappy record shots (handheld digiscoped with my iPhone) as it loafed. A worthwhile trip for a cracking bird.

Size comparison: Lesser Black-backed Gull (left) with Caspian Tern

Before seeing this one, I was starting to get worried that Caspian Tern was becoming a bogey bird for me. I've never dipped one, just not seen the ones I should have...

I was in the car park at Welney WWT in July 2009 when news of a Caspo on the reserve came through. Unfortunately, I was just leaving (with White-rumped Sandpiper "in the bag", thank you very much), not arriving. I could have gone back, if I wasn't with my family, who had had their fill of the reserve and wanted to get home. I'd had my allotted time and my wife was in no mood to give me any more...

More recently, a Caspian Tern flew over twitchers watching the Rock Thrush at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire in April. Meanwhile, I was on a training course in Manchester, thus missing *two* much-wanted birds... So there was double the joy when seeing this beauty in Cheshire.

Blogs about terns always provide an opportunity for a pun or three in the title, but I resisted… Well, until the last paragraph. One good tern deserves another (apt, after seeing the Bridled Tern earlier this month), or Terned out nice again, or Look what's terned up now! (they are lame. though), or maybe Tern on, tune in, dip out (not appropriate in this case, fortunately - with apologies to Timothy Leary), or Tern, Tern, Tern (perhaps most apt, as it's a song by The Byrds, although I think I need a third tern tick before using that one).


  1. Looks like my jokes have rubbed off on you!

    1. Haha, possibly! I'd forgotten about those things you call "jokes"!