I am in the process of gathering material for a promotional job so I needed to pay a visit to the Farne Islands this summer. A couple of days on the islands was going to be enough to gather all I needed. The fact a Bridled Tern was visiting the area around the quay on Inner Fane was just an additional lure … but initially it wasn’t as easy to see as I expected.
Having driven from Norfolk I joined a boat hauled up off Inner Farne quay for the afternoon; apart from a couple of stunning Lion’s Mane Jellyfish and some nearby bathing terns … nothing. The Bridled failed to turn up. It was a little galling that the wardens had apparently seen it while doing a tern count at 8pm that evening after we had left.
I decided to visit Staple Island the following morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon. This was a good move as the Bridled wasn’t seen during the morning on Inner Farne.
Staple Island was as good as it could be; Auks and Shags everywhere.
Approaching Inner Farne I could see the Bridled Tern roosting in the beach. So lucky. I hastily took a few photos at distance before it flew further back among the rocks and then shortly after flew off north. I was pleased.
I continued to take the video and photo material I needed as I walked up the island and decided to take my packed lunch in the shade of the lighthouse. I was not more than a single bite into my bagel when a dark tern nearly took my head off. It was back! Moreover it swung around the Sandwich Tern Colony and went down a few metres from the boardwalk. I hastily gathered up my belongings and ran. It was still there. I took a few shots and it flew. Excellent. I was very happy. When a few minutes later it came back and landed not 15 feet from me I was like a dog with two tails!
It did appear to be loosely associating with the Sandwich Terns. Given there are small colonies of Bridled Terns in West Africa from where our Sandwich Terns herald, I guess that’s where it’s from. This seems to be backed up by the contrasting mantle and upperwing, pale grey/white collar and extensive white in the tail all pointing towards the Atlantic form melanoptera.