Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Tern of fortune

Last night I returned to Atlit salt-pans for another mist netting session to catch terns. Atlit salt pans, 15 km south of Haifa, are the best site in Israel for ringing terns. We (Yotam and myself) arrived early in the evening and enjoyed the good birds around for a few minutes before setting the nets up. We had 7 Greater Flamingoes, 30 Avocets, 20 Black-tailed Godwits, tens of gulls, many sandpipers and Ruffs and of course a few hundred terns, most Common, but also Little and White-winged Terns.

We ringed all night long, using 100m mist-nets and captured 33 Common Terns, 7 Little Terns, White-winged Tern, Greenshank, Little Stint and Common Kingfisher.

White-winged Tern

One of the Little Terns was an ancient control. I don't have the exact ringing data yet but it was ringed in the early 1990's! This must be the oldest Little Tern documented in Israel.
We could feel the wind of change in the Common Terns, which are preparing for migration. Their moult is almost completed, especially body feathers, central primaries and tail feathers. Their bills and legs have changed colour and are now blackish-red, not the bright red seen early in the summer. Most Common Terns were fat and weighed about 30gr. more than on our previous sessions.

Little Tern

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this summer we started marking our breeding Common and Little Tern with colour rings, in a project coordinated by the NPA. We use white rings with individual black codes. This summer was our first experience in trapping flying breeding terns in Israel (not pullus). Until now this is a great success; we marked 109 Common and 91 Little Terns. I hope that the hard work (spending long nights feeding hungry mosquitoes) will help us study the migration patterns of these graceful birds, and hopefully we will receive some exciting recoveries from their distant African wintering grounds.

Common Tern

Common Tern - juvenile

Little Tern - juvenile