After a very short kip at an undisclosed site somewhere in Yorkshire I managed to convince my 'anti-twitching' birding companion to join me on an early morning diversion to Cleveland for a sneaky year tick. It was supposed to be a weekend of proper, hardcore birding without the need for any hot rarity action but I succeeded in convincing them that it wouldn't take too long.... and anyway it'd be worth it just for the stunning scenery and early morning fresh air! We arrived on site just after 5.00am and initially there was no sign of the target species on either Saltholme West or East Pools. A nice 1st summer Little Gull was good to see as were 7 Little Egrets, a trio of Black-tailed Godwits, a few Ruff and a reasonable flock of Dunlin but where was the pesky rarity? As I was just about to give up and continue our journey up to Northumberland one of the adult Common Terns flew up from the spit where it had been roosting.... suddenly there it was a juvenile WHISKERED TERN (252) fast asleep. It had been obscured by another Sterna species all along. Nearby a juvenile Common Tern loafed about as a useful comparison.
juvenile WHISKERED TERN - Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland.
Photo borrowed from Chris Bell
The picturesque surroundings of Saltholme RSPB..... it's a shit hole but maaaan it's great for them birds.... love it!
Unfortunately the bird was rather more reluctant than we were to get up early that morning and it continued to spend most of the time roosting, with the occasional peek around if a Dunlin or a Northern Lapwing approached too close. We then moved around to the Dorman's Pool area for a quick scan but there was nothing much to interest us other than plenty of squealing Water Rails. Before continuing our trip north I texted my year-listing brothers down in Nottinghamshire in order to tip them off that the WHISKERED TERN was still present, they were already on their way.
juvenile WHISKERED TERN flying around Saltholme West Pool.
Photo stolen from Stevie Dunn
A random chemical plant at Seal Sands, Cleveland, quite beautiful in an industrial kind of way!