At every turn in our Svalbard adventure, another tern would pop up. The arctic tern is quite a small bird, but is the record holder in quite a prestigious category – it is the animal that has a longer migration than any other.
These amazing little birds breed during the arctic summer. As soon as they have successfully fledged the chicks, they begin the long journey south – to the Antarctic! They literally migrate from one pole to the other. This is no mean feat, but given the size of the bird, they have certainly earned their spot in all our respect books. Perhaps because of their arduous journey, they are tough little blighters. This became quite evident when on our first day in Svalbard we happened upon an arctic tern nest and were forcibly removed from the area. The birds begin the attack with loud squawking, quickly followed by dive-bombing at your eyes. I know they are small birds, but let me assure you, this is a very convincing technique. No matter how sure you are of yourself, there is an instinct to protect your eyes you can’t seem to turn off, and they win that fight ten out of ten. I witnessed them using this trick of theirs on a number of occasions, and they were always able to chase off the predators (impressively, from glaucus gulls to polar bears).
During a walrus sighting, the large mammals moved a little distance into the water and we were patiently waiting their return. Right on cue, an arctic tern showed up and started feeding not far from where we were sitting. The tern gave us great images as it would dive into the water, catching little shrimp, and then flying off with its quarry right past us. It goes to show, it is not always the biggest and scariest animals that make the best pictures – keep your eyes open and look out for the ever-present terns.
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