5 Jul 2012

On this day in history.......

Sooty Tern, Anglesey!
5th July 2005.

This was the day it was first found amongst the tern colony at Rhosneigr, Anglesey. It wasn't nailed as a Sooty but put out as either Sooty or Bridled Tern. Despite a search of the surrounding areas it wasn't seen again. Until.....................

The next day I was standing on a canal towpath in Wakefield, Yorkshire watching an adult summer plumage Sabine's gull come to bread with the local Black-heads when I received a call from N Wales birder John Roberts to say it was a Sooty Tern and had been relocated offshore amongst the tern colony on the Skerries. There was no access but it was being arranged and we'd have to look into chartering a boat. Cue pandemonium as the news filtered through on the pager and birders ran for their cars.

A group of us including Jono Williams, John Gregory, Mark Payne, Al Orton and Malc Curtin met at Malcs old pub (The George & Dragon) to discuss tactics and try and get a boat chartered.

Success! Early next morning, the 7th July 2005, we were on our way to Anglesey to meet our skipper to take us on the 1 hr journey to the Skerries. Phone calls were made to bosses and work colleagues phoning in 'sick' on the journey.  There was a nervous wait when it emerged that two of our party had decided to try and view the bird off a nearby headland and were late turning up but we were soon chugging out to sea. Unfortunately it transpired our skipper hadn't got a licence to carry passengers and some of the other boatmen had reported him to the Coastguard so he wasn't keen on hanging around so the b@**r@ took our money, spent 10 minutes on site and set off back to port without so much of a glimpse of the bird which had apparently flown off.  It showed up whilst we were on our way back. Arse!

Luckily for us Jono took matters into his own hands and rang another boatman he knew who was willing to take us out again. This time our skipper was licensed. Were we in or not? Decision time. With my daughter playing in a school concert that night I knew I was pushing it and would be in serious doo doo if I was late but calculated that I might just make it....... I was in.

We shot round to the next small harbour where we found a desperate group of birders trying to hijack our boat! Luckily the skipper was as good as his word and when we pulled up he told the others we'd pre-booked although there was room for a couple of others.

We were on our way. This time, being a licensed boat, there were no problems and after an anxious wait the Sooty Tern flew in over our heads and landed on the rocky outcrop amongst its smaller tern brethren. What a stunning bird to see in brilliant sunshine off the coast of Anglesey.

A group of happy birders set off back to port with the skipper making us all a brew whilst Captain 'Pugwash' Williams steered the boat. I managed the concert, albeit looking like a Swan Vesta with a completely sunburnt head. Luckily it was in the Town Hall which had a bar and tow pints of cold beer went down in double quick time. Ahh, the memories.........

As a footnote the Sooty Tern then proceeded to show to all and sundry at Cemlyn but I still wouldn't have missed the excitement of our trip out to the Skerries. Even though I paid twice for the experience.

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