Hi Paul & Everyone,
I was chatting to Paul Walbridge on the phone a week or so ago, and he
mentioned in passing that I ought to go down into NSW to have a look at some
Crested Tern courtship behaviour, which I had not seen before.
Well thanks very much, Paul, I have just returned from Fingal Head (Tweed
River) and it was really worth the trip (2 hrs from the Sunshine Coast
[Beerwah] early this morning). I was there by 7.30am. I didn't see any of
the aerial courtship displays, but the nesting colony in itself was really
For everyone else with an interest, Cook Island is just off Fingal Head,
which is south of Coolangatta. I think just about everyone but I has been
there. Thousands of birds are nesting on the NW facing side of the island,
sheltered from the prevailing SE winds, I guess. I found the Crested Tern
colony in a frenzy of chick feeding. No time for courtship displays now.
Feeding chicks is an onerous business. I could see a parallel with human
I first went up to view from next to the lighthouse, and later from the
beach on the northern side of the lighthouse. The latter gave better views
of the whole colony.
Using my scope at x60 zoom (definition not good, but the magnification was
welcome) I was able to make out chicks in both downy and first feathered
stages of moult. Although there were always a lot of birds in the air, I
didn't once see a young bird on the wing - all were adults on the wing. And
neither did I see chicks flapping their wings or trying to make out they
could fly. All the chicks I saw - and there were heaps - were either sitting
quietly or wandering around aimlessly looking for a feed from an adult. A
few adults were sitting on the ground, but most were standing, giving me the
impression that they might be past the egg stage. Also, although there were
plenty of gulls standing around the colony, none was looking aggressive or
predatory. The chicks I saw all looked too big for a gull to munch on,
unless they attacked as a pack, I suppose.
I did see some other smaller terns, which were probably Commons, but the
views were too indistinct through my scope to be sure. Food was flying in by
the tonne. There must be a lot of fish around there. I also saw a large
school of dolphins nearby. Terns hovered over the dolphins searching for
opportunities, but seemingly few arose. Also saw turtles working the waters
behind the waves of the island. I say turtles, because I can't think what
else they could have been. Heads popped up regularly in turtle fashion.
If the weather were OK, like not too much wind, I would be inclined to think
that late afternoon viewing might be easier. Sunlight from the west would
light up the colony better.
It's worth a look. Thanks Paul.
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51' 152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)