It was a classic Farnes summer day. Seabirds abounded every conceivable niche while the sun beat down upon them and their progeny. The quiet, yet potentially mega-rare late June period had a stagnant feel and despite the constant stonk of the natives, the fading memories of a great spring, along with the rising excitement of the approaching autumn had me a little bemused.
Birding had become rather routine with tons of birds to search daily and besides the odd Roseate or Little Gull, that dream tern still evaded the Farnes. This was our year for a rare tern, we had all discussed it so often. But that would never happen.
The twitch at 6am....
Patrolling Inner Farne’s boardwalk I stopped for a chat with a passing visitor and looked east with him, towards Brownsman across Inner Farne. Naked eye styley I noticed a tern that just didn’t seem right rise up from the east over the ridge, banking as it did so. Immediately I knoew what was happening, though my brain hadn’t caught up. I subconsciously noted the white forehead and diffuse dark trail edge along the flight feathers...shit is this really happening?!? Bins up.
Similar to my first view, except I was looking down on it...
That crucial bank came instantly, the extreme sun couldn’t hide those all dark uppers, looking almost black in the extreme light. F~@K! Tits! OH MY GOSH!! Sooty or Bridled!!! I started screaming, left the visitor totally confused and started running and shouting down the radio. THIS IS IT!! My dream bird was there, right there! It dropped towards the jetty so I continued running, racking my brain as to which out of the two possessed the tapering white forehead...
Luckily the bird was present on the beach upon arrival and was clearly fresh in (despite what some are claiming!!!!!!), flying circuits being mobbed to buggery by Arctic Terns and only alighting occasionally. Another experienced birder/photographer happened to be on the island and had seen the bird over the meadow but semi-not –clicked until my screaming ensued a second later, grabbing record shots and suggesting Bridled, I was being mega-cautious, realising that he was probably right but wanted to confirm it properly through the books. In flight the sun made it look so black and it wasn’t til it landed that I finally saw the true colour of the mantle. Bridled! Ofcourse Bridled has the Little Tern style forehead, extending beyond the eye, Sooty has the headlight/blob thing. All of which the books confirmed. This was a major bird! News out, sit back and absorb through every pore!
This trans-continental crippled stuck around for 30mins then left low northwest, returning in the evening to delight eager birders while giving pretty consistent views (for a tern!!) throughout today. Thanks everyone involved. This had made my life, I’m so happy for the Farnes, the twitchers and of course, myself, I feel privileged to have been able to find this bird!
Oh and now weird words? Well. It made me gush cerebrally.
This spanking cripplerof grade A standards showed down to 15ft this pm and was courting Sandwich Terns this pm. Fingers crossed it stays!!!!!