Thursday, August 11, 2011

We've spent the last few nights with the Tees Ringing Group using single-panel nets at Seal Sands. Nine Dunlin were trapped but we were concentrating on tape-luring Terns and we did this well with 24 Common Terns (including six already with rings), two Arctic Terns and six Sandwich Terns (one already with ring). Only a couple of sheltered nets could be opened during the day but we did manage to trap a few Reed Warblers, Whitethroats and a Sedge Warbler. Oh, and a species we've never trapped before!

Neither of us had ever handled Sandwich Terns before so this was a real pleasure, especially as we trapped both adult and juvenile birds. Sandwich Terns were first described in 1787 by John Latham when he gave them the name Sterna sandvicensis, the species name referring to Sandwich in Kent where the type specimen came from. The same species name is shared by several other birds including the Nene Goose. But these were not described from specimens taken in Kent but rather the Sandwich Islands (more commonly known as Hawaii!). (c) Richard Brown

Common Terns were the commoner of the Terns we trapped. They were described less than 30 years before the Sandwich Tern by Linnaeus in 1758 for his catchy entitled 'Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis' or 'System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characters, differences, synonyms, places'. He picked the species name S. hirundo in reference to the Swallow-like nature of this species. (c) Richard Brown

These two juvenile Arctic Terns illustrate well how variable first-years of this species can look. The upper bird is probably a bit younger as it still has a pale base to the bill, something which soon darkens as can be seen below. The coverts and scapulars of the lower bird did not look worn but clearly the well scalloped appearance had faded, or perhaps the lower bird had never been as well marked. (c) Richard Brown

Looking out over Seal Sands towards the heavy industry. It was fantastic wading out waist deep in the mouth of the Tees to extract the Terns from the mist nets. We didn't see Peg Powler once, the legendary hag with green skin, long hair and sharp teeth who is said to inhabit the Tees. She apparently grabs people's ankles and takes them to a watery grave! (c) Richard Brown

A massive surprise at Hargreaves Quarry was this Budgerigar in the top shelf of one of the nets. Apparently budgery is Australian slang for 'good'. He is a he based on the colour of the cere which would be brown in a female. (c) Richard Brown

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