Guiding Churchill Summer trips for 10 plus years in by the Hudson Bay brought a lifetime of memories. The ones I have of the magnificent Arctic Tern are all fleeting …mostly the fleeting or fleeing was done by travelers and guides whenever such persons ventured near enough to a nesting area of these very protective and territorial birds
Let’s face it these creatures have a right to be a little impatient when it comes to relaxing for a couple of months in the Arctic and laying eggs and nurturing their young. With a migratory journey of over 40,000 miles yearly from Arctic in the summer to the Antarctic in winter, they need a break. So, if you plan to get close and …well..photograph eggs like the ones above, be prepared for an attack from above and quite possibly a wound of the head from a pointy, sharp red beak. Trust me…I’ve witnessed the assault first hand a few memorable times!
After all that strenuous travel ,which is reflected quite well in the terns’ physique, nothing is going to prevent the bird from protecting its’ nest. A fluttering , darting combination of moves through the air tends to scare most predators away from the nesting area. If these gyrations fail to create hesitancy on the ground by approaching beings, the tern has no fear and converges on the threat with reckless abandon…pecking at the subject until blood is drawn or a retreat is forced.
Once the area has been cleared…and this usually doesn’t take long…the tern returns to the nest to settle on the eggs. An amazing amount of energy is fuel for the terns’ display….one that is efficient and quite effective. My advice is to observe Arctic terns from a distance on the land. An amazing place to observe terns is the water of the Churchill River where they follow the feeding beluga whales and enjoy a bounty of capelin.