Eastern Common Tern (possible), Arnold’s Marsh, Cley NWT, 29th August 2014
Thanks to Steve and Richard at Cley I can now confirm that my possible possible is indeed a definite possible!
There’s been an odd Tern knocking about along the North Norfolk coast recently – thought to be a Common Tern of the race longipennis or Eastern Common Tern – ECT for short. It’s been regularly seen in the high-tide roost at Scolt Head island and previously but briefly at Cley.
Last Friday afternoon I went looking for a reported Black Tern on Arnold’s Marsh, Cley NWT. There were plenty of Sandwich Tern in the roost, with a few Common Tern but the Black Tern, I was informed by the assembled small group of birders, had just flown back out to sea. As I scanned the flock I became aware of a rather odd looking bird roosting on a small spit in the middle of the marsh. I was sufficiently intrigued by it to attempt to take a couple of digipics. The bird in question was being touted as a probable Arctic Tern but to my eye, although it did look short legged, it was too dark in it’s upper parts and the breast looked rather smokey – contrasting with it’s white cheeks and throat. The group dispersed and I decided to get a better look from the shingle ridge. I quickly relocated the bird but this time it was mostly side on and the detail of the breast was obscured. However, the all dark cap – lacking any white forehead, mid grey upper parts, all white tail stopping short of the primaries and – most intriguingly, an all black bill and dark legs were clearly visible. I managed a few grab shots before the bird took to the air and departed over the ridge to the sea. As it did so, however, it showed a clean upper wing with no signs of the characteristic primary wedge of regular Common Tern. Certain that it wasn’t an Arctic, I returned home without a new Tern tick for the year – oh well!
Over the weekend Steve Gantlett posted pictures of the possible ECT at Scolt Head on his blog and I became immediately suspicious that it was one and the same bird. I sent Steve and Richard Millington copies of my photos and I’m pleased to report that they quickly confirmed the id – my possible possible has become a definite possible!
More digipics showing, in the first shot (the bird just to the left of the samphire) the smokey breast contrasting with white cheeks and throat
and in the second, the plain mid-grey upper wing, lacking the usual primary wedge
Just got to wait now until they decide to split it!
What is it with you and difficult autumn terns? I don’t however think you can tick this one but its a very interesting bird!