Whiskered Tern: Angel of the Marsh

The Whiskered Tern (chlidonias hybrid) is one of my all-time favourite birds; with its charcoal cap, a rouge rich bill, snow white cheeks  and with its characteristic steel grey plumage, the Whiskered Tern is also one of the most attractive of all terns and a bird which I’ve wanted to set my eyes upon ever since I first glanced upon it in my first bird book, the 1998 “Photographic Guide to Birds of Britain & Europe”.Whiskered Tern at Sandbach_edited-1Whiskered Tern’s are a rare but annual visitor to the UK from continental Europe with data from the BTO averaging at 2 records a year, with 124 records from between 1950 and 2007. The last record of a Whiskered Tern for Wirral & Cheshire was in 2005, way before I had the deep fascination with the natural than I do now. So if one were to “tern” up locally I’d be going for it!The Terns of Sandbach_edited-1On Saturday the 7th of May after eventually getting out of bed after having a rather pleasant lie in, I checked RBA and I saw the words “Whiskered Tern” and “Cheshire”, could I have been reading this information correctly? To my own amazement I was in fact processing this information correctly and there was 2 WHISKERED TERN’S at Sandbach Flash’s in the heart of Cheshire. Despite exams only 2 weeks ago this was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss!WHISKERED TERN_edited-1When I arrived at the Elton Flash (the flash on which the birds were at), I was greeted by fellow Cheshire birder Phil Oddy who was also here to see these stunning “marsh terns”, who after having a good old natter with we paid our attention to the terns. Phil wasn’t the only birder who I knew who was around: John Tymon, Paula Rees, Alex Jones, Stephanie Leese and Findlay Wilde were around getting on the action.Whiskered Tern my first_edited-1Whilst catching up with Findlay and working with him to assist on getting some decent digi-scoping shots (see below)  we were then joined by good friend Joel Tragen. As the three of us were happily talking away (first time Joel and Findlay have met!) we also picked up on some of the other wildlife on offer: Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Gate Keeper, Brimstone and Peacock Butterfly along with Sparrowhawk, Tree Sparrow, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Oystercatcher, Chiffchaff, Buzzard, Greenshank, Gadwall and Swifts.

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Whiskered Tern by Findlay Wilde


Whiskered Terns by Joel Tragen

 After spending over 3 hours with the Terns, Findlay and Joel it was time to say our fare wells and we headed our separate ways, all of us with leaving with a huge grin on our faces. Today I got my 228th British lifer, Findlay’s got his 200th Cheshire bird and more memorable Joel got his 200th British bird.

On the way back I made a quick stop off at Winsford Flash (Findlay’s patch) to see if any Black Tern’s had moved in as no one had been down earlier in the day to check. As I was driving towards Winsford down past the Swanlow Park Cemetery I looked up and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there was flipping RED KITE, a CHESHIRE MEGA!!!! Flying right over the road and being mobbed by a pair of Jackdaws, thankfully I did manage to get a few drive by shots (I’m rather impressed by them) of the kite before it headed off into the distance. The kite had come from the direction of Winsford Flash, which when I rang up Findlay to inform him about the bird he was rather annoyed as it would of made a nice 2 pointer for Patch Work Challenge.



 You can see my sighting from the flash which includes relocating a Ruddy Shelduck on the Winsford Flash Bird Blog.


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