Big news in the tern report

As seems to be usual for this time of year it was quiet out on the water at the Country Park.  The gulls were sitting quietly (for the most part) at the far end, the coots seem to have invaded a couple of the tern rafts and the others were occupied by snoozing or preening terns.

The swans and their six cygnets cruised serenely past at one point, and a youngish great crested grebe chick decked out in his stripy best was, as grebe chicks usually are, loudly demanding lunch from its parent.

However, closer inspection, and a lot of waiting, revealed a lot more happening in the elegant world of the terns (imagine a note of sarcasm when reading the word elegant please).  Out on the newer tern raft there seemed to be an almost permanent group of up to five terns sat around the edge.  I saw some bringing of fish and worked out that there are at least three different pairs nesting there.  Most of the time there was just a bit general screeching when a fish carrying tern arrived.  But for some reason, one poor tern carrying what looked like a small perch (well, it had a red tail) was attacked by one of the by-standing terns.  Not only did it stop it from landing, it chased it high into the air, followed it round and round the raft and at one point had it in the water and seemed intent on drowning the poor bird.   I’m not sure if it was the tern that caused such a reaction or a desire to possess a red-tailed fish, but I didn’t see any other tern suffering from such attention.  I also lost the chase and so don’t know what became of the tern or fish.

Another strange piece of behaviour was from a tern that had caught a fine silver fish but which seemed intent on shouting about it.  He flew across the water, calling as he went, then I think he went halfway into Daventry and back, calling all the time, and then did another partial circuit of the reservoir.  I didn’t see him try to land anywhere or offer the fish.  He just seemed to be particularly proud of his catch.

However, I’ve saved the big news until the end of my Tern Report.  There has been a hatching out on one of the rafts.  I thought the adult was just resting, but every now and then I saw a little brown and black head pop up and wander about.  I was beginning to get a little concerned when there had been no attempt to bring in fish by any of the patrolling terns for at least an hour.  Then, suddenly both adult and chick started calling bright orange-red beaks open wide, and, sure enough in came an adult to give a fish to the chick before heading off again.  We saw him make three deliveries in fairly rapid succession before it disappeared for a longer hunt.

We therefore wondered, do the adults feed themselves first before doing some dedicated chick feeding – the adult didn’t seem to have too much trouble finding fish, so there has to be some explanation for the earlier absence?  Answers on a postcard please.

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