Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Going Well---Orford Fairy Terns

I made a visit to Orford towards the end of last week to see how the Fairy Tern colony was doing, and I'm glad to report, it's going well. Something like 18 pairs have nested on the spit on the North side of the mouth of the Prosser River, and there's already a good number of young birds on the wing. Thanks are largely due to a number of interested parties, not least the interest shown by the locals. That this site is nonetheless vunerable, was brought home to me, as I walked along the shoreline adjacent to the ternery. On the opposite shore, only a matter of metres away, a lone walker with 2 unrestrained dogs, chased the roosting flock of terns, gulls, oystercatchers, hooded plovers and pelicans, even to the point of pursuing the pelicans already in the water. Only one bird stayed, a lone Pied Oystercatcher, very agitated, suggesting that it had a nest or youngster to protect. That area was the original site of the ternery, and the present site is protected only by a few signs and a few strands of string! Entry is permitted, but you need to keep to the shoreline. If you're intending to visit, apart from observing the signs, I strongly suggest you wear old clothes, and a hat. The Fairy Tern adults strongly defend their young. They will dive at you, screaming, probably missing you by only a few inches, which if you're not expecting it, can be pretty intimidating, which of course it's meant to be! They will, quite probably, also defecate on you as they pull out of the dive (image on the left is of a diving adult). If you think 'Spurwings' are intimidating, well I can assure you these terns, despite their small size, can be even more so. They managed to score direct hits on me, including my glasses, hat, shirt and camera, even though I didn't approach the nesting area. It highlights the benefit of these and similar species, nesting colonially. They are able to combine and drive off would be predators (and humans). I also made a short visit to the Saltworks, at the mouth of Little Swanport, where there also appears to be a small Fairy Tern colony of just a few pairs. Judging by the frequency of adults passing, carrying food, they must have non flying young. Of interest, is the report of possibly a pair of Little Terns amomg the Fairies at Orford. The bottom right image is of a recently fledged young Fairy Tern.

2 comments:

John & Shirley Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
Great to hear the Orford Fairies are still doing well, despite farily regular intrusions. It's amazing how thoughtless some people can be! At a nearby Little Penguin Colony, here, where we do volunteer guide work, people came in last week and whipper-snipped all the vegetation around the burrows - and this with sitting adults, and newly hatched chicks!

BirdingTas said...

Hi John & Shirley,
I would like to think that people do these acts out of ignorance. However, there are a high percentage of dog owners who intentionally ignore all signs. I regularly come across them! It's amazing the excuses they come up with.