The attempts on my life have left me scarred and deformed.
The Arctic Tern may look a cute and cuddly, but don’t let that fool you. They’re really the spawn of the devil himself, ready to swoop down and attack you for any reason, or for no reason at all. One tern in particular has an unparalleled hate for me and he will happily travel far from his nest just for the opportunity to peck at my head. In response to these unwarranted attacks I have given him a name which I don’t think I can put on a university expedition blog.
When I’m not being attacked by them, I’m looking at their diet and their foraging efforts. I originally planned to evaluate their diet in 3 different ways. Firstly, I would take pictures of the terns from my Aviation Predation Observation Station (a tent on a hill), twice a day for 6 days a week, as they entered the colony in order to see what food they were carrying in their beaks. Secondly, I was going to go out into the colony itself once a week to collect the pellets the adults regurgitated to feed their young chicks, at the same time I was going to collect my third piece of evidence which was the fish or other prey which the adult may drop in or around the colony. As with most zoological projects, especially those which take place on expeditions with an “inexperienced” (stupid) student (me), that project basically fell apart as soon as I started it. Numerous searches resulted in no pellets or dropped prey being found, apart from a pretty sweet pair of crab legs. This search was made harder by the dense moss and lupin around the nests hiding anything that I would want to look for, not the mention the frequent vicious attacks by the protective terns, who were not afraid of using chemical warfare against me.
These difficulties resulted in the photography section being the only viable part of my project, not what you want when this project counts towards a fairly large part of your final degree mark. After a few days of contemplation and stress baking (I can make some 10/10 brownies now btw) I decided to add to my project by also counting the total number of terns I observed entering the colony from a new observation point further into the valley. This new plan has successfully given me thousands of pictures and plenty of data which I really, really look forward to going over in the coming days/weeks/months/decades.
While I have made the terns sound quite bad in this blog post I have actually developed a sort of begrudging respect for them. The ferocity with which they protect their chicks and the long migration they will soon embark on (over 70,000km!) shows just how strong and impressive these inconspicuous looking birds actually are. Their chicks are pretty cute too.
Lots of love.
P.S. Special thanks to Freyr the dog for keeping me company during my long observation periods, even when he repeatedly jumped into the river and then complained about being cold, appreciate ya.