Arctic tern

When this bird sqauwked loudly above my head, I had no idea that it was an arctic tern and one of the most extraordinary creatures in the world. I did realise it was trying to warn me it had a nest and was imploring to stay away from the chicks. Although I didn’t know where the nest could be, I soon learned that no squawking meant I was moving in the right direction and that frantic squawking indicated that I was risking a re-run of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. 

Arctic terns are famous for their migration, and fly from their Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 19,000 km or 12,000 miles. This long journey ensures that they see two summers each year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. Moreover, the longest migration ever recorded for any animal was made by an Arctic tern. On a slightly more sombre note, I also discovered that on Orkney – a group of islands above Scotland where I took this photo – several people are admitted every year to hospital with head wounds after seriously annoying an Arctic tern. On many levels, clearly birds to be treated with respect.