30th June 2014 – Twitching Bridled Tern? – Just Say NO!

All birders have probably got a bogey-bird. A species that you’ve tried to see several times before and missed. A species that frustrates, a species that gets under your skin. Bridled Tern has definitely become my bogey-bird…

Back in 2003 news of a Bridled Tern at Arbroath in Scotland had me heading north, the excitement in the car increased as we neared the site – the bird was still present and with only a few miles to go our pencils were sharpened ready to tick-off this charasmatic mega-rarity. But in those last few agonizing minutes the bird flew off. We searched for it until dark but there was no further sign, we even stopped overnight in a B&B and were out searching at first light the next morning, hoping that the bird would reappear. It didn’t and we returned home empty-handed. And so began my list of Bridled Tern ‘dips’!

My next chance of seeing one came last year when a bird appeared on the Farne Islands during the summer. But I now had a very unflexible full-time job and ‘dad’ duties to consider, I was unable to drop everything and just go, and I had to wait many days before my opportunity came. Added to this was the fact that it’s appearances at any one site were pretty erratic, making deciding when and where to go for this bird a bit of a lottery. One day it could be on the Farnes for an hour or so, then another day it was at Cresswell or Chevington for a little while, and some days it wasn’t seen at all. It even visited Cleveland, East Yorkshire, the Isle of May and Aberdeenshire just for good measure! Needless to say I tried in vain to see the bird, and my list remained Bridled Tern-less.

Then on 20th June this year, news came through that it was sitting on rocks on Inner Farne – it had returned! Once again work and family commitments meant I had to sit tight, but this gave me plenty of time to study it’s movements. For 8 consecutive days it had appeared on the rocks near the jetty, and in the afternoons it seemed pretty much ‘guaranteed’. That was it, I cracked. On the 28th June Col and I booked our place on board ‘Serenity’ for the 30th June.

We were in an optimistic mood as we made our way over to Seahouses, the bird had now been seen for the last 10 days on Inner Farne. However our optimism wavered ever so slightly as we headed out on the boat when Andrew (the skipper), informed us that it hadn’t been seen yet today. Hmm. It had been there for the last 10 days so surely it would behave for us today? Eventually we got dropped off on Inner Farne at about 2pm. The news that greeted us from the Rangers wasn’t good – “No sign yet”. We immediately began scanning through all the terns. It wasn’t there. We carried on scanning. It flippin’ wasn’t there! For the next 2 hours we sat on the jetty scanning all the terns, all the rocks, all the terns offshore. But it didn’t appear. Bridled Tern had done the dirty on me yet again…

To torture me even more, as I write this (1st July), the bird is back!!!!! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

Both Col and I did however find 2 Roseate Terns, which was nice. Some small consolation I guess. These were in fact the first Roseate Terns I’d seen for 11 years… 

Not a Bridled Tern....

Not a Bridled Tern….





And some other bits n bobs from the trip…






So if you’re thinking of going for it, just make sure that I’m not going on the same day as you!

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One Response to 30th June 2014 – Twitching Bridled Tern? – Just Say NO!

  1. Carl Baggott says:

    Sorry to hear you dipped. Terns are notorious for their disappearances. I remember chasing an ‘orange-billed tern’ all over the place one year. Some good photos from the day though, so not a complete disaster.

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