Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Little Terns spotted at Kilcoole... and Dublin City!

The first Little Tern sighting of the year at Kilcoole (and Ireland) came on the 10th April when BirdWatch Ireland's own Dick Coombes saw one day roosting in the lagoon adjacent to the colony site. It was not seen thereafter and was assumed to have continued on North. This was a particularly early record but was soon followed up by a couple of other reports from sites in Co. Galway.

The next batch of Little Terns appeared in Co. Wexford with 7 at Rosslare Backstrand on 12th April. Over 20 birds were present there again yesterday plus another 4 at Tacumshin Lake.

With that, I took myself off down to the colony site at Kilcoole this morning and sure enough two adult Little Terns were present feeding actively offshore with a group of their larger relatives, Sandwich Terns. Great to see the bouncing flight style & hear the distinctive call again!

We'll expect more terns to start arriving from the end of April on wards with laying due to commence in about the third week of May.

In the meantime, I'd like to take the time to highlight a great project being run at the moment by DAVE which "aims to use art and social media to raise awareness of some of the endangered species in Ireland by placing free art in urban spaces." Essentially, a piece of art depicting a threatened Irish species is placed somewhere in a town or city (Dublin, Galway etc.) and a picture of it is posted online with some basic directions/hints as to where it is. If you find the piece then you get to keep it! (as long as you then share a pic of it's new home)

Just over a week ago, a pic was posted by DAVE of a Little Tern painting which was up for grabs in Smithfield, Dublin. As it happens, myself & fellow tern warden Andrew Power were in Dublin at the time so we legged it as fast as we could to Smithfield only to find the painting gone! But all was not lost. While en route, we sent out a few sneaky texts to friends in Dublin who we knew were nearby! Sure enough the painting was found by one of them just before we got there and they have kindly donated it to the Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation Project. The painting will find its place down at the colony site later this summer!

Pic posted online by DAVE with the info "A Little Tern in Meetinghouse Lane, Dublin city."...

Wardens arrive to find it gone!...
But thanks to our good friend Brian we now have it!

Be sure to follow DAVE on Facebook and Twitter for more updates on wildlife art which will be presented around the country.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Volunteers Needed For Upcoming Breeding Season

We're looking for volunteers to assist with the conservation of Little Terns at Kilcoole this season.
No experience is necessary, all we ask is that you're keen to help out & willing to learn lots about seabirds in the process!

Some of the typical duties which are often carried out by volunteers include:
  • Assisting with the construction of protective fencing around the tern colony at the start of the breeding season.
  • General ecological monitoring throughout the summer (flock counts, chick feeding studies etc.).
  • Liaising with members of the public, providing general information on the terns & conservation project as well as facilitating viewing of breeding birds from a safe distance through telescopes.
  • Ensuring disturbance from humans & dogs is kept to a minimum.

So if you'd like to spend some time this summer helping to protect one of Ireland's rarest breeding birds then please get in touch with us by e-mail on littletern@birdwatchireland.ie

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Kilcoole Oystercatcher chick resighted in Waterford!

One or two pairs of Oystercatcher nest on the beach among the Little Terns every year. As with the terns, we do our best to keep these guys safe and monitor their progress throughout the breeding season. Last July, staff from BirdWatch Ireland put coloured & coded leg rings on a brood of three Oystercatcher chicks that hatched from a nest at the main tern colony. This was done as part of a monitoring program of waterbirds (including Oystercatchers) in Dublin Bay, the idea being to gain an insight into the movements of locally bred birds from surrounding areas.

Kilcoole Oystercatcher chick & hatching egg © Niall T. Keogh
Kilcoole Oystercatcher chick with coded ring 'LV' & one of its parents © Niall T. Keogh

And sure enough one of them has been resighted! Clare Scott, an artist living on the coast of Waterford, reported a colour ringed Oystercatcher fitting the description of one of the Kilcoole birds at Garrarus beach near Tramore in December 2013. You can read all about Clare's Oyc sighting on her blog here. It was photographed there again in January 2014 by Liam Walsh. 

One of the Kilcoole Oystercatchers at Garrarus beach, Co. Waterford © Clare Scott 
Kilcoole Oystercatcher (third from the right) at Garrarus beach, Co. Waterford © Liam Walsh

So all in all, that's a distance of approx. 130km it has moved from its natal area at Kilcoole to the South West!

This is fantastic news for those involved in both the Dublin Bay Birds Project & Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation Project. Great to know one of 'our' charges during the breeding season here at Kilcoole has been surviving through the winter and also that the colour ringing scheme is delivering some really interesting & important results such as this.

The Dublin Bay Birds Project has a great blog on the go with lots of news & updates on the tracking & monitoring of wintering waders in the bay. And if you do come across a colour ringed Oystercatcher (or Redshank or Bar-tailed Godwit) then please get in touch with the project here.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Project Documentary Now Online

The Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation Project documentary was filmed during the summers of 2010 & 2011 by Andrew Power & Peter Cutler (Crow Crag Productions/BirdWatch Ireland Carlow Branch).

It features an introduction by Eric Dempsey, interviews with the wardens and some amazing nest camera footage of Little Terns & Ringed Plovers as well as other wildlife from the local area such as Otters.

Whats more, it is now available online for your viewing pleasure! Be sure to check it out & see an example of BirdWatch Ireland's conservation work in action.

Direct link to the tern documentary on Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/77581000

Little Tern chick & egg © Andrew Power & Peter Cutler

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Omega Chick!

As mentioned in a previous blog post, we were eagerly waiting for the last viable egg left on the beach from nest K50 to hatch...well it did!

And so our youngest member of the colony came into the world on Friday morning & should hopefully fledge around 20th August. This very late hatching date means that it will have to sharpen up fairly quickly as it will be thrown straight into the arduous journey South for the Winter. 

This is where those chicks born earlier in the season will have a major advantage as they will have had these past few weeks to build their strength & learn some important lessons in foraging for themselves which may make all the difference when it comes to surviving their first winter.

But the Kilcoole Little Terns are as hard as nails so no doubt this latest recruit will be back in two years time to have a go at breeding itself!

Our final charge for the season © Andrew Power

Friday, 2 August 2013

And they're off!...

The past week has brought about a change in the mood of the terns as well as a decrease in the numbers present at the colony, signalling the beginning of the end of the breeding season.

We've noticed that the terns seem to be a lot more agitated, with frequent flocking flights ('dreads') out over the foreshore, some of which end up far out to sea, flashing like a shoal of fish as they twist & turn
in a tight-nit ball.

On their return to shore, it would often appear that the flock is somewhat smaller than before. I reckon a few birds use these 'dreads' as an opportunity to peel away & start making their first move South of the Autumn. I guess this 'agitated' behaviour shown by the terns may well be an eagerness to get moving with the frequent 'dreads' kicking off the process.

Adult Little Tern in flight © Ronnie Martin

Another more obvious factor at play lending to the nervous disposition of the terns is the presence of a juvenile Peregrine racing through the colony each morning! The young falcon is most likely still being fed by its parents (an adult female has been seen about too) and it never really seems to make an honest effort at catching the terns despite getting quite close on a number of occasions. Most likely what is happening is that the bird is simply honing its hunting technique which will be vital if it is to survive its first winter. It has also been seen chasing after Manx Shearwaters out at sea! Thrilling to watch this soon to be apex predator in action & heartening to know they've bred successfully in Wicklow after recent news of persecution of Peregrines has just come to light.

So with the hint of Autumn in the air & the added push of a predator in the vicinity, daily counts of the terns have dropped from 150+ adults & 50+ juveniles last week to 70+ adults & 20+ juveniles at the moment. We've also received reports of adult & juvenile Little Terns seen recently at Dalkey, Co. Dublin & Tacumshin Lake, Co. Wexford, sites where the terns do not breed but can visit during migration.

Juvenile Little Tern © Niall Keogh
Furthermore, during a count at the Kilcoole colony on Tuesday evening, I noticed a very advanced looking juvenile present which was unringed! Not one of 'our' birds therefore, perhaps one which has travelled south from the colony at Baltray? We have also been seeing the other species of terns making their way past Kilcoole in recent days, with adult & juvenile family groups of Sandwich, Roseate, Arctic & Common Terns heading North for the staging area at Dublin Bay where they will feed & rest for the next month before making the big push South for the Winter.

So all in all, the terns are on the move and whilst the beach is starting to quieten down, this is ultimately what we want to see at this stage of the season. Good to know that the fledglings are strong enough to be making this first leg of migration & the rest of their lives!

We're now watching over the final 15 chicks left which have still yet to fly. We expect them to do so by the middle of the month & we will remain on duty until then to ensure they make it!

Juvenile Little Terns in flight © Peter Cutler
The young terns can be seen practice fishing along the foreshore of the colony at the moment. Yet to see them catch anything though!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Omega Egg

Most years we find that the breeding progress of the colony is staggered & generally forms two distinct groups, one lot which breed in the traditional first week from mid-late May & another which begin sometime in the first week of June. This was true again this year but we also had a run of late nests into the first week of July, most likely re-lays from the small number of losses incurred at the egg stage (due to abandonment, Oystercatcher predation etc.).

The 6 pairs or so of terns which nested latest finally made it around to hatching over the past couple of days. Amazing to think that these day old chicks had no problem weathering the heavy rain, thunder & lighting on Wednesday night!

As such we are down to our last nest with one egg waiting to hatch. On checking it this morning, the egg showed some early signs of life poking out from within (faint lines starting to appear on the shell) so with a bit of luck we'll have our last chick out & about by early next week at the latest. With that we should expect our latest chicks to fledge sometime around the end of the third week in August.

So as of this afternoon we have 42 active pairs with 47 fledglings, 27 chicks & 1 egg left to hatch.

Nest K50...Paddy Last! © Niall Keogh