Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.13

Published on: 27 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 29 Jul, 2012

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By Malcolm Fincham

My focus of attention this past week as been very much on the common terns at Stoke Lake, mentioned at the end of my previous report.

Black-headed gull food frenzy!

This was especially true when, on the way to the lake on Wednesday, July 18, I noticed, as predicted, some black-headed gulls had started to arrive back from their breeding grounds. They were starting to occupy the flooded field area across the river to the south-west of the lake itself. There have been fears among those of us who birdwatch at the lake that the gulls would, like last year, attack the young terns.

Black-headed gulls on flooded field at Stoke Meadows.

There just a few gulls at first, but by midweek more than 100 were counted. They varied in numbers throughout the week depending on the time of day, many visiting Stoke Park where the ground had been nicely “ploughed” up for them by the visitors to GuilFest the previous weekend.

On arriving at the lake my fears were quelled as I was still able to count all three juvs [juveniles] terns. I was even more pleased when one of them, probably the first one to hatch on about June 22, took flight (guided by one of the adults)  and flew around the lake and returned back safely to the raft.

Adult common tern with a fish.

This I witnessed on Friday, July 20, which by all accounts  is the norm for these wonderfully agile bird to progress from hatching to fledgling.

By Sunday evening, July 22, all three chicks had fledged from the raft and were flying around the lake and diving into the water, practising their fishing skills, while being guided by both their parents.

Now they are all “on the wing”, I’m quite confident that they are quite capable of outwitting any attempts of predation from those black-headed gulls.

A curious thing to me about black-headed gulls is how they got their name, as they actually have brown heads. Whereas, Mediterranean gulls [Med gulls], occasionally seen among black-headed gulls, actually have black heads. You can see this in the pictures I have taken. Both species lose their dark coloured heads shortly after the breeding season.

View across the RSPB reserve at Pulbrough Brooks in West Sussex.

I did manage to fit in a couple of trips to Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex recently, but there was not much to inspire on either trip – apart from an enjoyable walk and scenic views. However, I did pick out and took a distant photo of a black-tailed godwit, still in its summer plumage and probably returning from its breeding grounds in Iceland.

Photo taken from some distance of a black-tailed godwit.

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