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        Birding in St.Lucia


            The Birding in Taiwan tour group that went to Matsu to look for Chinese Crested Tern, July 19-20, 2008, had mixed results.  The first concern was typhoon Kalmaegi (“Seagull”) that caused considerable damage and at least 18 deaths (mostly due to flooding and mudslides in the south) in Taiwan on July 18.  The group of 12 birders was scheduled to fly from Taipei to Nangan island, in the Matsu Archipelago, the morning of July 19, but although most of the storm mass had passed over Taiwan the previous day, the winds were still strong and the Nangan airport was still closed.  There was a lengthy wait at Shungshan Airport in Taipei, before the flight finally departed for Nangan late in the day.

           The boat trip to the Matsu Tern Reserve took place the following morning, July 20, with everyone feeling quite anxious about the typhoon’s possible negative effect on the tern reserve.  Fortunately, the islets of the reserve appeared to be undamaged.  The good news is that 20 Chinese Crested Terns, including three chicks, were observed—a new high number since the species, first described in 1863, seldom seen thereafter and thought perhaps extinct, was rediscovered in the Matsu Tern Reserve in 2000.  The bad news is that one of the adult birds had thrust its lower mandible through what appeared to be a plastic 35mm film canister, and seemed unable to remove it.  The bird was able to fly, and was probably still able to feed, though with difficulty.  However, its chance of survival is poor, as the likelihood of a rescue team capturing the bird and successfully removing the foreign object from its beak seems slim.  This is doubly unfortunate, both for that bird and the species, as Chinese Crested Tern is extremely rare.  The loss of even one individual is serious.

 The accompanying image is by Robert Tizard.


            We welcome comments about this bird from readers; please send to:  j.a.mackenzie@telus.net.