Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Caspian terns, Phillip Island

These pictures were all taken last weekend while walking along a stretch of beach which extends from Cowes to Observation Point at the northeastern corner of Phillip Island.

This is the closest I have been to a Caspian tern (near Silverleaves, Phillip Island)!
Five things I have learnt about Caspian terns 
  • I believe that their name relates to the region of the Caspian Sea. The name Hydroprogne caspia was given in 1770 by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas who led expeditions into "The East" visiting the Russian provinces, Ural Mountains and Caspian Sea)
  • Their distribution is widespread, but scattered, occurring in Eurasia, North America, Africa and Australasia
  • They are the world's largest tern with a wingspan of up to a 1 metre
  • They can be quite dispersive. In Victoria we see them a little less in the winter months.
  • Males and females are alike. Non-breeding birds have lighter flecks in that impressive black cap
They are a pretty regular sighting at Rhyll Inlet's Observation Point which I visited at the weekend (ostensibly to see if any migratory waders had arrived).

Looking towards Rhyll from Observation Point
This Caspian tern dwarfs these Red-necked stint while sharing a bath

Observation Point often has good numbers of Pied oystercatcher
Red-necked stint, Red-capped plover and a lone Hoodie (blurred top left) making use of the seaweed
Hooded plovers
I caught up once again with some of my banded friends. I have been photographing the bird at bottom right for some 5 years - What a trooper!

Red-capped plover
Australian White ibis crossing Westernport Bay from French Island
Grey fantail are often seen where the trees meet the beach
On this day Willie visited the beach as well
I have not noticed Willie wagtails with such brown on the wing before. I am wondering if these indicates an immature bird.
A few other beach scenes follow. The return trip had me looking into the setting sun. The clear waters of the bay were lent a metallic sheen and there were ships to be seen.

The container ship Ambrosia
What's that I spy? A tall ship at the Cowes jetty?

Closer inspection reveals the Sydney based Soren Larsen.
You can find out more about the history of this restored tall ship (and star of The Onedin Line BBC television series) here.

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!


  1. What a great post, Pete. I love Caspian Terns. We have quite a number that roost in one of my favourite spots on Moreton Bay.
    Those tall ships really are magnificent!!

  2. Terrific post! Excellent in flight tern shot!

  3. HI Pete Great flight shot of the caspian tern. Loved the while post.

  4. Beautiful birds! I love the flight shots of the tern.

  5. I am amazed about the tall ship in Westernport Bay. I thought the tall ships were in Williamstown now and then crossing Port Phillip Bay this weekend. I haven't seen brown tones in a willie wagtail either. Gorgeous photos.

  6. Wonderful photos! I especially like the one where the birds blend in with the sand.

  7. Great set of pictures - I looking forward to spending some time down be the sea soon! Even on dull days, there is something to see.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne