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Monday, 27 April 2009

An unprecedented arrival of WHISKERED TERNS

A strong SSW current at the latter part of last week heralded the arrival of an astonishing single flock of 11 WHISKERED TERNS Chlidonias hybridus into Derbyshire - the largest single flock ever to be recorded in Britain and Ireland (the previous highest was of four birds - at Doncaster Lakeside and Potteric Carr in South Yorkshire on 16 May 2004 and at Woolston Eyes and Ashton's Flash, Cheshire, on 19-20 May 2005 (the latter also flew over Keele Services, Staffs, on 20 May).

The eleven birds (virtually all full breeding-plumaged adults) arrived mid-afternoon on Willington GP (Derbyshire) on Friday 24 April, where they soon settled on posts and could be seen very well from the footpath adjacent. At least eight (perhaps 10) remained overnight and afforded good views for a constant stream of admirers throughout the rest of the day (see Phil Jones' photographs above).

Early on 25 April, a further adult was discovered at Frampton Sailing Lake (Gloucestershire), where it remained until disturbed by yachts at 1215 hours. A couple of minutes later it relocated to neighbouring Saul Wharf and Water Meadows but flew off high south heading towards 100 Acre Flash. Nearly three hours later, it did appear at 100 Acre but flew south towards Slimbridge WWT reserve proper at 1618 and was then relocated on the reserve South Lake. After a short while, it flew off and was not seen again.

Meanwhile, eight of the 11 at Willington GP were still present early morning on 26 April and stayed on site until just after 1000 hours, when both a Peregrine and a migrant Hobby passed over. The Hobby separated and spooked the flock and unfortunately six of the group flew up high and headed for the river course. Two adults then remained and continued to show well for the rest of the day.

Five of these eight then relocated 20 miles south to Croxall Lakes NR (Staffs) late afternoon, whilst the missing single was just a short way away at Long Eaton GP (Derbyshire), commuting between Pits 1 and 2.

Perhaps two of the original flock were then discovered late afternoon (1700 hours onwards) in NE England - at Back Saltholme Pools (Cleveland). The birds were found by John Dunnett just before 1730 and commuted between Back Saltholme and East Saltholme Pools until 2050, when a Peregrine stooped at them and they disappeared. It represented the first county record (per Martyn Wilson). Three photographs are published above (Martyn Wilson)

The five Staffordshire birds appeared in South Arm III at Rutland Water (Leics) late morning on 27 April (where they were viewed from the cycle track on the Hambleton Peninsula and Lapwing Hide) whilst a single breeding-plumaged adult visited the Diddington Pit at Paxton Pits NR (Cambs) from mid-afternoon. The former flew south at 1655 hours with the latter still there mid-evening.

A further adult was discovered in NORTHERN IRELAND, where it frequented Quoile Pondage NR (County Down) and was watched from the Castle Island Hide on 26 April.