ECT etc.

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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

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and in the second, the plain mid-grey upper wing, lacking the usual primary wedge

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Just got to wait now until they decide to split it!

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This entry was posted in Birding.

One comment on “ECT etc.

  1. Martin Coates says:

    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!

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