Showing posts with label Little Tern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Little Tern. Show all posts

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tern ringing at Atlit - and more...

Last night I joined Yosef for a night of tern ringing at Atlit saltpans. This is Yosef's third season working on Common and Little Terns breeding in N Israel, and he has some interesting results already. We arrived rather early and had a quick look around before setting the nets up. Quite many shorebirds around - 10 Blackwits, Whimbrel, Spotshank and Greenshank etc. 

Black-tailed Godwit: amazing how they are able to preform such strenuous long-distance migration during heavy wing moult. This must affect their aerodynamics considerabely.

Many of the terns in the colony are ringed. Incredible how we managed to read rings before we had DSLR's. This is a call to all of our friends in eastern and southern Africa - go and look for our rings! They are very easy to spot, and terns are always fun to watch. Yosef has had some recoveries and controls exchanged with N and E Europe, but nothing in Africa yet, where these birds are heading to for the winter.

The catch was not terrific but not too bad, ended up with 38 birds. Conditions were very good - no wind at all, but humidity was awful. 

Common Tern - 3cy+

Little Tern - 3cy+

Among the terns we had few surprises:

White-winged Tern - adult. What a cracker but wouldn't pose for a photo.

Squacco Heron

This is part of the 3000+ roost of terns, mixed with some Slender-billed Gulls:


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Salt and pepper

Yesterday I joined Yosef for his ongoing project of colour-ringing terns at Atlit Saltpans. These saltpans hold Israel's largest tern colony, and are an excellent birding site altogether.
We arrived in time to have a quick look at the colony before setting the nets up. We had this interesting tern - it's very dark both above and below, with a narrow white cheek stripe. The bill is long and red. The bird was large and powerful, like a normal Common Tern. It incubated non-stop, so unfortunately we couldn't see the legs at all. I waited for half an hour for the bird to stand up or fly off, but had to give up and let it be; the nets were waiting.
This bird reminds me very much of this amazing bird ringed by Yosef last year. Whether our bird had rings or not I do not know. The plumage colours are superficially similar to White-cheeked Tern, but size, structure and bill are wrong.
There is a very interesting article by Sean Nixon in Birding World 24: 211-215 illustrating the identification of eastern Common Terns. It describes in detail longipensis, and more briefly tibetana. But to my eyes this bird is far too dark for any longipensis (which should show a dark bill) or tibetana. I have no idea what the dodgy form sinunensis looks like, but I assume it should be paler anyway.
However, one thing I learned last night is that the amount of variation in Common Tersn in huge, and it occurs in all aspects: size, plumage tones, bare parts. So whether this bird is an extremely extreme Common Tern, an 'eastern' Common Tern (breeding in Israel?!), or a hybrid Common X White-cheeked Tern we will probably never know. I will certainly try to return and have better views of this fascinating bird. Of course, any comments on this bird are most welcome.

This is the bird incubating:

And here in comparison to a 'normal' Common Tern:

Anyway, as night fell we started catching terns. We were joined by the Hula team, Rony and Michael. Even though the wind was strong all night long, we had a decent catch of 30 Common Terns, 15 Little Terns (including an ancient retrap from the mid-1990's!) and for a late bonus a beautiful adult White-winged Tern.

Common Tern - adult (4cy+)
Rony the magician
Common Tern - 2cy. Note the very worn unmoulted primaries, PC, alula and GC, and dark lesser-coverts bar. Bill is almost completely dark, and crown mixed with brown. Most Common Terns spend their first year and a half somewhere in the southern oceans or offshore Africa, and only few return north in their first summer.

Little Tern - adult

Little Tern - juvenile
White-winged Tern - adult

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ma'agan Michael - migration in full swing

I spent the last three days at Ma'agan Michael. I took part in a data anlysis workshop given by Nat Seavy of PRBO. After visiting PRBO last year it was great for me to meet Nat over here, and of course I learned so much from his experience and expertise. Unfortunately I had very little time for birding, and only this morning I had a couple of hours to do some birding with Nat.
Ma'agan Michael beach was very birdy, with many terns, gulls and shorebirds. We had five Greater Sandplovers, this one being rather tame and showing well in the early morning light. Note the huge bill and yellow legs.

Greater Sandplover

There was a good selection of other shorebirds but nothing too exciting. However Turnstones are always amusing to watch.

Ruddy Turnstone

There were several hundred terns roosting on the beach. Most were the local Common Terns, but there were good numbers of Little Terns and White-winged Terns - about 50 of each.

Little Tern
I had two colour-ringed Little Terns that had been ringed as part of a project run by the NPA, both were ringed at Atlit (15 km north) earlier this month. Hopefully some Israeli terns will get sighted in South Africa this winter.

White-winged Tern (what a poor name)
After this quick look at the beach we drove around the nearby ponds. This did not produce too much, with the only birds of interest being 1 Eurasian Cuckoo and 1 Temminck's Stint.
As you can see the workshop itself was great fun too. Here we R analyzing some data ;-)