An Arctic Tern was taking sanctuary along the sea shore today. It was warm in the morning sunshine and sheltered from the wind in a bend of the shoreline and safe from danger.
Brendan and I went for a walk this morning to Ballyhenry Island. We noticed a lone Arctic tern sitting on a stone. Normally the terns are in pairs or a group along the shore. This bird did not look as if it had energy to go diving for food today.
The terns come to Swan island opposite Strangford to nest and have their young in June. They leave at the end of the summer and return to Africa. The terns squeal, fight, swoop when they are feeding or returning to their nest. They dive into the water for fish, and take off again. They are full of energy. Here is a photo of a healthy group and one young taking a rest after fishing.
The average Arctic Tern lives about thirty years, and will, based on the research, travel some 1.5 million miles during its lifetime. It is famous for its migration; it flies from its Northern breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 12,000 miles. The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. How amazing that this bird can travel so far. We are privileged for it to visit us.
I took a closer look at the lone bird through the binoculars. The bird’s feathers around the mouth look grey instead of the usual black. The beak and legs were a dark red instead of a brighter red. I think this bird may not have much longer to live. It has taken sanctuary in this quiet place to spend its last few days. No more flights around the world for this bird.
This coast must be the place where grey haired and grey feathered creatures come to stay.