Monday, 28 September 2009

American Black Tern (Chlidonias niger surinamensis) & White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) - Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon. 29/08/09

I headed off to Farmoor today in hope of catching up with both juvenile White-winged Black Tern & the much rarer juvenile American Black Tern that had been found and identified by Oxfordshire county recorder Ian Lewington whilst watching the White-winged black Tern. The news of the White-winged broke Friday early afternoon and being unable to get to Farmoor I decided to head over on Saturday, later Friday evening news then broke of the American Black Tern being present so it was perfect timing for the Saturday visit. After finding my Thames Water permit and reading up in my copy of Helms "Terns of Europe & North America" about the ABT I was looking forward to the following day. Saturday arrived and I headed off towards Oxford and Farmoor Reservoir, the weather being warm and sunny worried me a bit in case both Terns had departed but arriving in the car park I was greeted with birders leaving Farmoor and telling me that both Terns were still present.

I made my way to the causeway stopping to watch a couple of Yellow Wagtails by the water treatment works before heading off towards between the reservoirs. Crossing the causeway I met the Berkshire gang who were just leaving, Marek Walford, Ken Moore, Brian Bennett et al let me know the ABT was still present and often perching on the barley bales on the waters surface on F1 reservoir, we said our goodbyes and I hurried off across the causeway to a multitude of birders, scopes and cameras.

Both terns were feeding in tandem and wherever one went the other seemed to follow, they spent long periods flying back and forth in the south-west corner of F2 occasionally coming to the edge of the causeway before heading back out to the south-western corner. Another friendly face arrived in the shape of Berks birder Richard Crawford and after a few pleasantries we decided to walk the causeway and round to where the Terns were in the south west of F2. When we finally made it to our destination the terns were flying in front of us but still some way out on the reservoir, we got some great views as both birds then flew towards us before heading back over to F1 reservoir. We circumnavigated the reservoir and Richard headed back towards the car park leaving me to head back to the causeway for another look where I met another familiar face in Adam Bassett. We got some good views and finally the Terns came to rest on one of the floating bales where they stayed right up until I got my camera out, I managed to get a distant shot moments before they took to the air. They were later joined by a European Black Tern and continued to follow each other across the two reservoirs when I left.

The American Black Tern is only the 5th record for the UK and without doubt the rarest bird to have be found at Farmoor, a magnificent find by Ian Lewington. Both Terns remained until the evening of September 3rd 19:50 when after coming under repeated attacks from Black-headed & Lesser Black Backed Gulls they spiralled up in to the sky and headed off South East.To view some excellent photos of both Terns visit the log book on the Farmoor Birding website.

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