Thursday 19th jjuly 2012.
Finished work at around 3pm,and a mad dash to Strumpshaw fen in deepest Noorrrfolk was called for-yes I am bonkers,but I had a chance of a caspian tern that had been bombing around the area for a couple of days.Casp.tern is a very difficult bird to catch up with in Britain,They tend to zip around like crazy,never hanging about.I have been for a couple before,only to find they had moved on.
About twenty miles before I reached Norwich I checked for further reports and my spirits really sank as it had’nt been seen since early afternoon.Being only about half an hour away now I decided to motor on,besides, it was a whole lot better than watching Coronation street.I hate that programme really,but you know how it is when the other half has it on.
Anyway I arrived at Strumpshaw just before six and my addreniline levals immediately jumped up about a thousand per cent when I was informed it was seen ‘about half an hour ago at Buckenham and heading this way’.Walking alongside the river Yare 1600metres towards the tower hide was a great pleasure,what a heavenly place,absolutely beautiful and tranquil.A cettis warbler sounded off as I neared the hide.There was no sign of the tern when I arrived,but plenty of folk were looking.Common terns were fishing the pools, with black headed gulls and a few ducks.Scanning the vast reedbeds and trees I counted no less than seven marsh harriers.
Things were about to liven up a bit.Just before seven someone spotted it! It seemed to come from behind the hide,probably flew up the river.Bird hides don’t play piped music but if this one did it would be ‘let me entertain you’-we were about to be.
This monstrousity of a tern,the biggest of any in the world,dwarfed the commons and was also larger than the b h gulls.Loud shrieking,heron-like sounds(reminded me of Coronation street again) mingled with the other birds calls when they came close.The bird was constantly plunge diving,with all the finesse and subtlety of somebody chucking in half a house brick,or so it seemed…this beast was demonstrating a method,a plan,a strategy that had been developed through evolution,like all nature,designed to get the best out of it’s available food supply.
It was kind of like a fishing competition with the other terns and gulls being it’s competitors.Not for this guy trying to build up a match-winning haul of ‘bits’,tiddlers and fry.Oh no,he was going for the winner and after forty minutes and umpteen crash dives he came up with what looked like a perch or rudd.This looked a ridiculous sized fish for a tern to take,it was probably five or six inches long,and must have been a few ounces,the sort of fish that would look right in the beak of a grebe or heron.After bagging this specimen the tern was mobbed by several b h gulls,but it swallowed the thing in one gulp-MATCHWINNER ! That was what he came for,supper sorted he was immediately off east.Boy we’d had our moneysworth.Later the bird was seen at Breydon water,where it roosted the previous evening.No sign of it at all next day.This was a lifer for everybody in the hide.What a bird,what a place,what a hobby,what a life!
A photographer in the hide captured a couple of shots of the bird and fish.His name is Trevor Hannant and the pics are on flicker-search words Trevs photostream or caspian tern.
Filled up with petrol,junk food and coffee,got back to G-Town in two hours flat around midnight.Did I miss ‘owt on corro’?