This year I saw my first common terns back at the country park on 19th April – this is about the same time as last year, give or take a day or two and is one of the many signs of summer. Even better news is that there are now two shiny (figuratively speaking) new tern rafts with a much better view of the nesting level. Thank you Daventry Country Park!
I’ve been over a couple of times since they returned and will try and get there more regularly going forward (weather and work permitting). The first time was about a week after they had arrived. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, but very little fish catching in evidence. I only saw them dipping towards the surface, perhaps finding very small crustaceans or just taking insects.
None of the terns seemed particularly settled on any tern raft, so I don’t think they had particularly paired up. However, I did see what might have been courtship / pairing as described in the Tern book that I recently read. I saw two birds circling in the air, slowly gliding downwards passing past each other – called high flight in the book. I missed the ascent, but the book describes it as ‘a gliding descent in which the birds sway from side to side so that their paths repeatedly cross’. That’s pretty much what I saw.
Other things I noted that day was a grey heron’s nest above the water, three sandpipers and an absence of Black Headed Gulls – I guess these have gone off to breed, and a sedge warbler singing.
So, fast forward almost a week and I was back at the country park to check on my terns. This time there seemed to be even more terns making more noise – they are difficult to count, but there must be around a couple of dozen now. Quite a few were sitting on the tern rafts, both old and new – although the ducks seem to quite like them as well. I did see some fish being brought in, but not how they were caught. I think one was trying to impress a female, but had it stolen just as he was about to hand it over – kleptoparasitism is apparently relative common in these terns and some get the majority of their food this way! The female flew off unimpressed. However, the majority of the terns still seem to be skimming the surface.
I did see some battles above the old tern rafts but also a lot of posturing with wings lowered and heads in the air which I believe is a sign of non-agression. Showing the black caps to another tern is an out and out sign of aggression. I did see a pair that were quite settled on one of the new rafts (the lighter green one for future reference) and I did see them mating so there should hopefully be some chicks in just over three weeks – I will have to put a note in my calendar to go and have a look on or after 26th May! At least they were on one of the raised platforms so I only have to worry about the gulls, not flooding!