Nothing occurs in nature
except the impossible
and that never occurs - Gallileo Galilei
Friday 12th July and an air of cautious exultation has descended as the 240th Little Tern chick at Kilcoole receives it's uniquely coded metal ring that will accompany it, ad infinitum. With the population of chicks now well into it's 3rd century for this year, the feelings of exuberance at reaching this noteworthy milestone, are perhaps over-zealous. After all Little Terns have been recreating this scenario for centuries, if not millennia, on coastal stretches here and abroad, minus the metal rings of course! Many bird species have developed the evolutionary gambit of relaying in the event of a nest failure, it is a strategy that is certainly critical to reproducing successfully. Nonetheless it is difficult not to feel great respect for such a display of resilience and resurgence in the face of adversity and great challenges and it is difficult not to feel somewhat invested in the outcome of the colony.
|The 240th Little Tern chick ringed at Kilcoole in 2019|
As the number of hatchlings and subsequent fledglings (currently 15) continues to proliferate, the number of active nests inevitably dwindles. Of course this is by no means the end, it is just the beginning! The previous threats to eggs posed by high tides and hungry hedgehogs have lost their potency due to the newly found mobility of this years offspring, but the danger has not abated. Developing lean chicks provide calorific fare for hungry ground predators and attacks from the air. While foxes and crows mean you don't dare to blink, don't ever forget about the wiley old mink!
|Now mobile Little Tern chicks march up the beach at Kilcoole|
|Fledgling success, preparing for a first trip to Africa|
The myriad of challenges certainly causes a degree of stress to the Little Terns and don't forget that they have navigated about 4,000 km to arrive here and soon they will experience the innate sense to make the return journey to wintering grounds in West Africa. However, the majority exude confidence and knowhow, as if they have done it all before! Well this is very much the case. Only this week we received news from our neighbouring colony in Gronant in north Wales, that a Little Tern had been re-sighted there, that was ringed in 1993. Fit and healthy at 26 years old this is now the oldest Little Tern on record. Astounding! The previous record was 21 years. Such a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds could be likened to the Battle of Thermopylae, exemplified as the power of a patriotic army defending it's native soil, or in this case shingle and sand! We are delighted to think that our Irish Little Terns will be going back to Africa with their ranks bolstered by 240 and we will continue to fight in The Battle for 300!
THIS IS STERNA!!
|Adult Little Tern defending territory|
|Sunset over the North lagoon|