Jill Dening wrote:

To: John Gamblin <>, Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Jill Dening wrote:
From: jilldening <>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 08:16:06 +1100
> G'day Jill and all,

> I sat here for a while and pondered your latest ....
> thinking I wonder how many of your terns, would equal
> the shore parking space taken up by one of my loves
> down here?

Hi All,

You might be surprised at how small a space 40,000 terns can cram into.
Because the first thing they do when they arrive is to preen, they look like
a can of wriggling worms. People keep asking me, "How can you count 40,000
birds?" and of course the simple answer is that you can't possibly be
accurate. They fly in at such speed and in such volume that it is sometimes
very difficult, but there's no doubt that the longer you spend at it, the
better you get. I still can't arrive in the middle of a large flock and be
accurate with an estimation - I have to build up slowly, taking samples,
noting the species mix. For instance, Little Terns are like Eastern Curlew,
in that they prefer to roost at some greater distance from each other than
do other waders around them. However, whilst Eastern Curlew are happy to
roost with other wader species at their feet, Little Terns prefer the edges
of the flock. This presence of large numbers of Little Tern in a flock can
decrease the density of a flock to its overall area, compared with a flock
of Common Terns, which is very dense.

This afternoon, weather willing, I am making a segment for Totally Wild, a
children's TV nature show.  I expected to be talking about the Caloundra
sandbanks, etc, but I found when I received the script that the producer is
so fascinated by the notion of counting so many birds that she is
concentrating on how we go about it. That 's fine, whatever makes them
happy, as long as I get the publicity for terns, I'm happy.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51'     152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994

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