Sooty Tern Twitch (Friday 8th July to Sunday 10th July 05)
Anglesey. Ian Barnard, Christian Melgar, John Lees, John Benham & I decided to drive to Anglesey for the Sooty Tern. We left my house at 11:00pm and arrived at Holyhead 5:00am. We met up with Steve Nuttall, Steve Richards, Ian Butler and a guy called Chris from the Staffs area who decided to join us in hiring a speed boat to get to the Skerries.
Most boats take from 40 to 90 minutes from Amlwch, Cemaes and Holyhead to get to the Skerries, but fortunately the boat I hired only took 15 minutes to get from Holyhead to Skerries.
Our charter departed at 5:45am and arrived just after 6:00am. When we arrived at the islands there were about 10 charter boats out there with many depressed birdwatchers aboard them. The Sooty Tern was reported to have roosted on the Skerries from 8:30pm the previous evening and there was a report that it also flew out to sea. However there was no sign of this Tern this morning. Boats had arrived from 5am and searched the island to 2pm. We stayed around the Skerries to 9:45am. During our time out there we had magnificent views of 2 Roseate Terns, 300+ Arctic Terns, 100+ Puffins to name but a few of the highlights.
Back on the mainland we decided to search the areas the Sooty Tern had previously visited. We started our search from Rhosneiger at Ynys Feirig RSPB. The reserve is a long Island strip which can be viewed at a range of 1.5miles. We stayed here 4 hours, with the best birds being a brunette in a green bathing costume with very impressive assets.
We left here onto South Stack. Here we encountered 20+ Chough feeding very close to the road. Next stop was Holyhead ferry terminal where we saw 6 Black Guillemots.
Time was getting on and we now thought there was no chance of the Sooty Tern being relocated. We left Anglesey at 6pm and Ian Barnard started the six hour drive home. At 7pm my mobile rang, it was Mark Lopez excitingly saying that Richard Bonser had relocated the Sooty Tern back on the Skerries. Ian turned the car around immediately and drove as fast as possible back to Holyhead. I in the meantime feeling extremely stressed out rang around and tried to book the re-book the boat we had earlier in the day. So I rang Aubrey on 07866014393 and he said he could get it ready in 30minutes, I said that would be fine and I said the earliest we could arrive was about 8:00pm. I rang RBA to advertise 4 spaces on our boat and what followed was 10 calls one after each trying to get the four spaces. This all happened in a 3 minute period. I then rang back RBA to say four seats had gone. Our first lucky caller was Andrew Lawson’s party containg Gary Howard, James Hunter and Steve Nixon. We naturally gave them the four spaces. They was still on the island and got to the boat before us. They got to the boat at 7:30pm and desparately waiting for us. We arrived at 7:55pm feeling like we had just won the lottery and our boat went immediately. We got to the Skerries at 8:15pm and we were greeted this time by three boats full of smiling birdwatchers. The Sooty Tern was sitting on the rocks closer to the Kittiwake colony than the Arctic Tern colony. Gary Howard managed to get wonderful close shots of the Tern. I managed to get a record shot, but what a relief. The Sooty Tern was still on view when we left at 9:00pm. On the way back another slow boat was making its way to the Skerries which Paul Hackett had chartered.
We all felt that a great weight had been lifted and we all posed for a group photograph.
We left Holyhead at 9:45pm and got home at 4am Sunday morning(including a McDonald stop). The trip costed £51 each (includes two Boat rides).
If you haven’t been for the Sooty Tern yet, I suggest you book an early morning boat and late evening boat as the bird can disappear during the day. Be careful about booking your boat as some of the boats are illegal and they are asking upto £35 each per passenger for a 3 hour trip, giving only one hour on the Skerries. We found our boat man the best value for money with a four hour trip costing just £150 and with ability in being able to take 9 people.