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Caspian Tern finders account – Quendale, 4th June 2014

Posted by Roger Riddington on Wednesday 4th June 2014 | Birding in Shetland

Caspian Tern at Quendale. Photo by Roger Riddington.

I downed tools at work at about 4.00 pm and set off to Quendale with Ian Cowgill. We made a detour to the south end of Spiggie first of all, where a smart sum plum Slavonian Grebe was still present. Also at least one but probably two singing Common Quails.

En route to Quendale, we pulled in at the usual site to check Hillwell. I turned the car round so I was closer to the loch and started by scanning quickly across the flock of 20–30 gulls (mostly Black-headed and Common Gulls) that were loafing in the field between the road and the loch. The fourth bird from the left-hand end immediately grabbed my attention; facing away, it was taller and bigger, with a black crown, and through my bins I caught a glimpse of a red bill. That prompted a desperate scramble for ‘scope and bean bag, which duly revealed: a CASPIAN TERN!

We watched for about an hour and a half, during which time the majority of the mainland-based birders arrived to tick it off – it was a tick for everyone, Dennis and Okill included, so there was plenty of rubber left on the bends between Mainlands and Hillwell. The bird didn’t actually do very much, it was effectively roosting/loafing for the vast majority of the time. It made one short circuit of the loch quite early on, and one other very short flight to a new part of the field; but otherwise it was pretty static. We eventually left it at about 6.30 and went to check Quendale (which didn’t take long – no migrants and it came on to rain). When we got back to Hillwell, we found only Brian Marshall and John Laurie staring at an empty field, empty of Caspian Tern at least; apparently the bird had flown off north at about 6.45.

Roger Riddington