Langstone Harbour offers an astounding wildlife spectacle all year round.

Autumn and winter see's the arrival of thousands of wildfowl and wading birds attracted by it's food rich mud, but before we know it spring is upon us and the harbour takes on a very different persona as the flocks of geese, dunlins, godwit and sanderlings move off en masse to their summer grounds making way for the arrival of our next visitors.  Strangely for the last couple of years a small group of brent geese have decided not to make the (albeit arduous) journey back to Siberia, they seem content in absolving themselves of their responsibility to produce the next generation and bob around the harbour with not a care in the world.  What keeps them here, we just don't know.  Brent goslings in Langstone harbour?  Well perhaps not.

So, what of our spring arrivals.  The sandwich terns are back in respectable numbers, although we had a scare when they all up and left for a couple of days.  Fortunately it was a short lived absence and we were delighted to see not only their return, but that they quickly started their courting displays, which as with all terns, is a charming ritual involving a fish and a lot of aerial showing off.  The common terns are clearly thrilled with their new raft at the oyster beds, being away from the madness of the main gull colony is obviously to their taste and they too are getting on with the business in hand.

I watched one couple in the throws of  cementing their relationship.  He diligently fed her, presumably confirming his ability as a bountiful provider, though on this occasion she was suitably unimpressed and dropped the fish with a look of disdain, it seems he'd bought her goby when she'd asked for eel - typical!  Well if the fish didn't work maybe this will ........

Look, I can fly upside down ........ It's something I've regularly photographed with tern's and shows just how incredibly aerodynamic they are, truly masters of the wing.  This next photograph shows their amazing physique and feathers, beautiful!

Our star species, the little tern have arrived too, all the way from West Africa.  This delightful little seabird is always a joy to see, with their distinctive sickle shaped wings, that look like mini boomerangs and constant chatter, they are quite unmistakable and utterly enchanting.  However do such delicate creatures manage to live their lives in and among the madness of a gull colony i'll never know, it's rather like your pet cat living with a pride of lions and getting away with it, quite something really.  

We know that all nesting birds face a cacophony of challenges and every year we brace ourselves for the inevitable failures and of course brilliant and much celebrated successes.  We hold our breaths, as Mother nature does her worst, but always marvel at the resilience and tenacity of an animal instinctively driven to reproduce, no matter what (unless your a rogue brent goose that is).  Of course in a harbour we face one force of nature that cannot be controlled - the sea.  Unseasonal storms and tide surges are our nemesis.  Since the birds at the oyster beds hunkered down we weren't expecting any particularly high tide, however a south westerly wind last week was just enough to push the water perilously close to those on the periphery of the colony.  It's heartbreaking watching a gull sitting on top of a nest surrounded by water, never giving in, and even worse when you see a nest finally wash away with a hapless parent looking on.

Fortunately the casualties were few this time around and of course our fingers are firmly crossed for no further such episodes.  But for that one little glitch, things are looking fine just now - watch this space!

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