First I must thank Tim Kuhn for his excellent header image currently on Birds2blog which has prompted me to do a post on this interesting bird and which is where I thank Martin Lofgren for his equally excellent images of the Forster's Tern which breeds in North America and winters in the USA and Mexico.
Forsters Tern. Martin Lofgren.
There's some interesting history attached to the Forster's Tern (FT). Even Britain's first record of a FT is interesting in that it was only found in Cornwall 23 years ago. But the story behind its finding is equally interesting and somewhat amazing in that, any 'tern' found in Britain in winter is surely worthy of a second look, but - with luck on his side - the finder of this one had more than a second look. The first sighting was in January 1980, but the bird on this occasion was too far off the observer to positively ID the bird other than he was watching a 'tern' in British waters in winter. But he saw this bird again three weeks later in February and this time noticed a dark eye patch, but the bird did another disappearing act. Amazingly this bird was seen once again almost another three weeks later in early March by the same observer....third time lucky. This time the bird landed on rocks and it was confirmed to have been a first-winter FT.
First-Winter Forster's Tern. Martin Lofgren.
More locally the first record of FT was of a bird found at Seaforth, North Merseyside 26 years ago in March 1987, the bird was an adult in winter plumage. The second record - also an adult - was seen on a sea-watch off Formby Point nearly five and a half years later in August 1992.
Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-1798) was a naturalist who accompanied James Cook on his second voyage around the world, a voyage which went further into Antarctic waters than anyone had previously reached. But Forster's career was destroyed because of his constant complaints and troublemaking directed towards Cook. He was a troublesome and unpleasant man to the end having refused to relinquish his notes of the voyage with Cook, they were not found and published until almost 50 years after his death. Nevertheless, he has a beautiful bird named after him in the Forster's Tern.