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Tern, Gull-billed

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Johan van Rensburg
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Tern, Gull-billed

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:38 am

Gull-billed tern, Gelochelidon nilotica, has only been seen by a select few in South Africa, mostly at coastal venues. Finding this rare vagrant from Europe at Mkhombo Dam is very special for as far as I can determine it is only the second inland record for South Africa.

I somehow missed the original note sent out by birding aficionado Niall Perrins, but when I saw the SARBN note about the gull-billed tern sighting at Mkhombo Dam early on Monday morning, I immediately headed for this very special birding venue The dam is currently very low in spite of having received good rain in its catchments, it allows one to access parts of the dam that would normally be flooded. The gull-billed tern “site” was along an all-weather farm road built before the establishment of the dam wall. When I arrived, four vehicles and a twitch of birders marked the given GPS coord (-25.135, 28.827). After unsuccessfully scanning the dam for about an hour from this spot, I decided to work the wider area from my Landy and soon I spotted the medium-sized tern working a drainage line and adjacent banks to the north of the area where the gull featured during the previous day.

Image

Much larger than the many whiskered and white-winged terns, and slightly smaller than the few grey-headed gulls that were about, it stood out in both appearance (almost all-white with black bill) and leisurely flight into the prevailing wind while foraging for insects along the banks. Its hunting is punctuated by sudden mid-air manoeuvres to swoop down to the ground to take prey, unlike the other terns that hunt over water for fish.
692 Latest lifers: Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross, Eurasian oystercatcher, Gull-billed tern, Black-bellied storm petrel, European storm petrel, Sooty falcon

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Karin Mitton
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Re: Tern, Gull-billed

Unread post by Karin Mitton » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:03 am

This is a fabulous sighting indeed! And a lovely photo!

Johan van Rensburg wrote: After unsuccessfully scanning the dam for about an hour from this spot, I decided to work the wider area from my Landy


What are the overall road conditions like? I don't have a 4x4, but have a vehicle with slightly higher road clearance than a normal sedan. If the bird is going to hang around until the weekend, I may drive up there on Saturday.

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hilda
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Re: Tern, Gull-billed

Unread post by hilda » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:04 am

Very well done Johan! :clap: :clap:

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Tern, Gull-billed

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:46 am

Karin Mitton wrote: What are the overall road conditions like? I don't have a 4x4, but have a vehicle with slightly higher road clearance than a normal sedan. If the bird is going to hang around until the weekend, I may drive up there on Saturday.


Without a 4x4 you will get stuck in the softer parts of the road that have recently been under water. Also, I think a lot more water may be on the way! Rather convince a birding friend with a 4x4 to go birding with you, Karin...
692 Latest lifers: Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross, Eurasian oystercatcher, Gull-billed tern, Black-bellied storm petrel, European storm petrel, Sooty falcon

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Karin Mitton
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Re: Tern, Gull-billed

Unread post by Karin Mitton » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:49 am

Bummer ..... next time then. Thanks for the info, saves me the long drive!


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