This angular, slender seabird visits Otley in the summer for the fishing at Knotford Nook and the Wetlands, though they will also eat molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrates. They drink in flight, actually preferring seawater where available. They are also unusual in that they moult their wing feathers two or three times a year, with females judging the suitability of a partner by the freshness of these feathers. Not seen in Otley, but somewhat intriguing, is the tern behaviour called a “dread”, where all or most of a colony fly low, fast and in silence out to sea, for no apparent reason. Male terns are quite aggressive in defending young and territory, and although they stop short of actually hitting intruders (like the Arctic Terns do on the Farne Islands), they will sometimes defecate on them. I like the onomatopoeic Scottish names for terns: Picktarnies and Tarrocks.
By Neil Griffin Photos by Pixabay