Beware the tern

16th July 2012
The sight of thousands of nesting birds, trying to raise their young as quickly as possible during the brief window of opportunity provided by the Arctic summer, is magic to behold. It is most likely one of the reasons each arctic visitor makes the long trip north into the relative cold. However, some of these nesting birds come with a disclaimer.

The Arctic tern is one such bird, making the epic journey north from the Antarctic to take advantage of 24 hours of sunlight. They nest on the ground, in shallow depressions, which are guarded vigorously against predators- humans included in the broader definition thereof! When you get too close to one of their nests, often unavoidably as they will nest right next to roads, or on pathways, they take to the air. The first thing you hear through the beanie that is protecting your head against the icy wind is a faint clicking sound. Next, you see a set of white wings preceded by a sharp red beak making their way quickly in your direction. If you have experienced this before, you know that they aim for the highest part of your body, so you now raise you hand (hopefully gloved) against the inevitable collision. If not, you may find yourself with a nasty looking cut and a trickle of blood flowing freely down your scalp.

Polar bears looking for an easy meal, arctic fox trying their luck and humans are all put off very quickly by this dive-bombing technique. Us 'predators' are quick learners! On our first day in Longyearbyen we watched an arctic fox being mobbed by about 20 terns, and he was in such a hurry to escape that he plunged straight into the river to get away. We fell victim to a few such aerial assaults, but were able to move away quickly enough and without injury. I do however warn you- beware the tern...

Here is a link to my Svalbard Gallery

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Photo comment By Dryzie: Nice one Laura......

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