Sunday, 17 September 2017

A White-winged Black Tern at Willows Farm

12th September 2017

Willows Farm is in London Colney at the south-western edge of the Tyttenhanger Gravel Pit complex. Today a White-winged Black Tern had been reported on the fishing lake next to the animal centre, so off I set to join the expected throng of birders. I parked up and walked down the footpath to the lake and the signs were not looking very encouraging as there was no sign of any terns and, even more worringly, no sign of any people.

At that point a lone birder appeared from the trees and said that the bird was resting on the back edge of one of the two islands on the lake and so I set off to locate the bird. It was indeed resting on the shingle and looked quite diminutive next to an enormous Black-headed Gull. It was clearly heavily in moult which gave it a rather attractive blotchy black and white appearance.

After only a couple of shots it took to the air and flew continuously until I left an hour or so later. It proved to be a rather tricky bird to photograph as the background kept changing from trees to water to sky, and the amazing agility of the bird also proved to be a problem as just as you were about to press the trigger it would drop like a stone to the surface of the water. Absolutely amazing.

My most sincere thanks go to fellow birder Steve Blake who found the bird and got the news out so quickly. Steve spends several hours each week working this very large and difficult site, and it is obviously mega records like this that make it all worth while.

Well done Steve.

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