Bird Of The Month – March
Along with July, many birders consider March to be a dull month in the birding year. I tend to agree with them. Interest lies mainly in the few winter visiting waders which linger around the coast and we sometimes have reports of early Chifchafs (or are they the more active of the few which spend the winter hear?) It’s too early to think of the summer migrant passerines with any seriousness, and the winter thrushes have all but gone. My bird of March is the Sandwich Tern. In West Cork we are never very far from the sea and these birds are fond of the type of coastline that we have. They are a thoroughly maritime species frequenting the vicinity of low-lying, sandy and shingly / pebbly coastlines. Sometimes they nest near fresh water at considerable distance from the coast but always use coastal areas for feeding. Their diet consists almost entirely of fish.
They spend the winter along the southern African coast from Duban clockwise round to West Africa. March is the time to look for them around the coast and this year ( by 10th 2013) we already have had two records in West Cork. Logic says that these birds are from the population wintering along the West African coast, but there is no proof that I know of. Sandwich Tern is easy to separate from the other species which we have. Their larger size, longer looking wings and black cap are good indicators. We usually become aware of their presence when we hear their diagnostic ’kir rick’ flight call – the second syllable being generally lower than the first. They are often mistaken for gulls but their call is unmistakable even at distances of a mile or more.
So if you find yourself by the coast this month and see what you think is a small gull offshore on its own (they only come together later to fish and nest) listen for the call and you might find your fist summer visitor of the year.