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23rd April 2018 - Goodbye geese, hello terns

Our overwintering waders and wildfowl have migrated north, but who is just arriving?

April is an exciting time of year for wildlife as everything is on the move. Our wintering ducks, geese and wading birds have begun their migrations north to the Arctic in search of longer daylight hours and places with more insects for feeding their young. Many more birds such as osprey are passing through at this time of year after spending the winter further south in Africa, but they will keep heading north to places such as Scotland and Scandinavia.

Birds like swallows spent the winter in Africa and head back to the UK for summer. Swallows are both well known and well loved as they nest around our homes, barns and outhouses and their arrival signifies the beginning of summer to many.

A much less well known summer visiting bird is the swallow of the sea, the tern. Terns travel from the West Coast of Africa especially to spend the summer and raise their young on the Solent. These birds are often confused with gulls and so are usually overlooked. With a closer look you will see they are more slender and elegant and have long tail streamers that have earned them the nickname "Sea Swallow". It is exciting to watch them fish for sandeels along the coast. They hover just like a kestrel but over the water before suddenly nosediving for their prey. If they are successful it's straight back to the nest to feed up their chicks.

There are currently three species of tern that breed on the Solent; these are the common tern, little tern, and sandwich tern. They choose the Solent for its rich food supply and suitable habitat. Many people know that nesting birds face a cacophony of challenges as every year we see failures and successes of small garden birds. We hold our breaths, as Mother Nature does her worst, but always marvel at the resilience and tenacity of an animal instinctively driven to reproduce.  Of course on the Solent coast, birds such as tern face another force of nature - the sea. But that's a story for another day. This summer Bird Aware Solent will be keeping you up to date with the breeding activities of the tern and the work of our partner organisation, the RSPB in helping to protect them. So look out for more news stories for updates

Get in touch and let us know if you've seen any terns on the Solent yet this season.

Find out more about Terns: