Thursday 9 July 2020

One good Tern

I wonder if that title had readers wondering if I had been on a jaunt? Fear not....I am talking about a local lockdown Common Tern. Common Tern is a tricky bird in Wanstead, timing is everything. They breed at Walthamstow and in the Lea Valley, making occasional forays over our way, but unless you camp out by one of the lakes in the Park the likelihood is that you will never see one. I have had many a blank year, including 2019, so this year I was determined to get one. But from the house. A common and garden Tern if you will.

I have one single record of a garden Common Tern from 2007. I remember the day well as it was so odd. A Common Tern flew down the length of the gardens, equidistant between my house and the houses that we back onto, and then flew back again about a minute later. It was looking down the whole way, in the manner that Terns often do. I wondered if it had dropped a fish on a patio? I've kept half an eye out ever since, but history has never repeated itself. The 2020 lockdown was surely the time.And thanks to a network of dedicated spotters on the ground, it has delivered.

And not so dedicated spotters of course....last week I noticed that Nick had tweeted out a Common Tern from the closest pond to me not 30 seconds previously. Great! Not visible over the treeline, but when it flew off it would surely gain height and I could be vectored in. I quickly got in touch, asked about the nearby availability of bricks, and asked that he keep me posted when it flew. Sure sure, no problem. Scanning, scanning, scanning - nothing. Is it still there I asked? No it's gone. Gah!! Which way? Dunno, I got talking to someone and didn't see it go. Pfff. 

This weekend I got another chance. This time my dedicated spotter was Simon R, and although he did not know about Nick's faux pas as I had not yet written this blog post, he made no mistake. Eyes firmly on the prize. Flying towards the Basin!  Scanning, scanning, scann..... YES! Distant, but the rakish form of a Common Tern was just visible over the trees as it made its way north across the golf course to the next fishing opportunity. James H, aware of it's presence and rushing out of Bush Wood towards the Basin for a year tick also picked it up as it headed back west towards wherever home was. 

To say I was delighted was an understatement, and Simon R has earned himself a nice pint of beer as and when we all feel able to get together. Nick will be having a glass of water. Poured over him. I jest of course! I am immensely grateful that I get bird news so frequently from those able (and willing) to get out more, and that I have seen so many birds from home over these last few months is partly due to them. I'm on 99 for the year now, 69 of them from home. And now that autumn appears to be underway I would hope to get a few more.

This Common Tern was photographed in New York.


  1. 99 for the year? What's that in real money?

  2. Congratulations on the sighting, Jonathan! What I particularly liked from your account is the tight-knit community of birders and all the communication there is, so that no one misses a good spotting. I daresay you’ll probably get to see more when the winter migration begins (although I have no idea how the patterns are in the UK - as I live in a country that hosts said migrants just for the summer) Greetings from Sri Lanka!