By Tammy Sawers
Photo: John Dickens ( http://500px.com/johndickens)
Upon our arrival on Fregate we were greeted by swooping blurs of white as Gygis alba, commonly referred to as fairy terns inquistively hovered around our heads! Like something out of a story book my first sights of fregate island were completely overwhelming and the fairy terns most definitely contributed significantly to that! As if flying in by helicopter to one of the worlds most beautiful islands wasn’t enough!
Stepping out of the chopper as the blades slashed in a slow circular motion I recall how the thunderous sound faded into the background as sight overpowered all other senses! Flashes of Lush green grass, quaint little houses, a white church and bell tower in the distance, banyan trees, frangipani bushes emanating pinks, reds and whites, turquoise blue seas, and the little white birds that carried a sense of ‘story-tale’ and peace as they glided and hovered around us- welcoming us to the next 8 weeks of pure paradise!!!
A memory I will store as a true treasure forever- I believe that I should dedicate this entry to informing others a little about these precious beauties!
The fairy tern is a sea bird typically found across the world’s tropical oceans. It is brilliant white in colour with a long slender black beak and a blue base in adults. The eyes are relatively large and this has been noted to be beneficial for hunting fish at night. They have a wingspan of 70-80cm and are often seen flying between trees in pairs. Although fairy terns do not build nests they do use trees for breeding. The female will use a knot or fork in a rare branch on a tree to support a single egg. The female will sit on the egg for 21 days to ensure it does not fall out of the tree and once the chick hatches (as a fluffy white bundle of cuteness) it will use its highly developed claws to cling onto the branch and will remain there while the parents go out in search for small fish to feed it.
Interestingly the absence of nest building in fairy terns is believed to be as a result of reducing the possibility of acquiring nestparasites which in some colonial seabirds has resulted in the abandonment of the entire colony.
They are a long lived bird- recorded to have a lifespan of 17 years.
On Fregate Island these fairy terns really contribute to making this little piece of paradise that much more magical!