A bit windy yeah? A load of fun that was...the fences are bent, the hide is tilted, marquees imploded but at least the caravans are still standing (just about!). Using the Port-a-loo in a Force 8 wind is also an experience to say the least! Anyways, enough of that...onto the birds!
The number of adult Little Terns present seems to be staying put at about 110 birds which fits in nicely with the number of pairs floating about at the moment. With any luck a new batch of birds will arrive in the next 2 weeks but until then we have, as of this morning, 51 active nests with 115 eggs! The tally would be slightly higher except for 2 tern nests (K3 & K21) which appear to have abandoned already. Terns will normally only abandon their nest after significant disturbance/predation or when they have laid too late in the season, so it is odd that these two have given up (for now) as early on as this. They still have quite some time however to get another clutch on the go if they wish to do so.
I was trying to come up with possible explanations for abandonment over the past fews days (perhaps they were young & inexperienced? or perhaps they knew the eggs were infertile already?) but on Sunday morning Jason saw the 'resident' Peregrine swoop across the K-colony & nab an adult Little Tern! With so few non-breeders hanging about it is likely that a breeding bird was taken so this may well the cause of one nest abandonment? Hard to say really. The Peregrine has been seen 'attacking' the colony up to 3 times in an afternoon over the past few days & is causing some serious panic amongst the terns, causing them to take off & flock out at sea on a regular basis meaning that the nests are often exposed more regularly than they should be. The knock on effect of this is that there's a couple of Hooded Crows & an adult Rook hanging about the K-colony testing the defence capabilities of both the terns & the wardens! Unfortunately one nest on the edge of the K-colony (K43) vanished some time yesterday afternoon, with the likely culprit being the adult Rook....I know this because it tried to do it again right in front of me! After a bit of yelling & flailing of arms the Rook promptly left. I've also found that shouting 'Oi!' at the Peregrine also works for a short while...
Anyways, other than the aforementioned nests lost over the past couple of days, I'm happy to report that everything else is going well. Only 3 nests have yet to finish laying so all the rest are busy incubating & are on the home stretch leading up to hatching. The week of high tides has past with no negative effects. Some minor readjustments to the seaward fence needs to be made after the strong winds but that's no problem.
|Surveying the southern half of the K-colony © Niall Keogh|
Our two pairs of Oystercatchers are still incubating whilst the 4 pairs of Ringed Plover currently have a total of 15 chicks running about like there's no tomorrow! See some pics of the plover chicks on Siobhan McNamara's Drimnagh Birdwatch blog - http://drimnaghbirdwatch.blogspot.com/2011/05/little-tern-colony-kilcoole.html
One advantage of the windy weather is that there has been some nice seabird passage with Manx Shearwaters & Gannets showing particularly well, feeding very close offshore at times. After doing a few tern incubation checks yesterday morning I took a quick look out to sea expecting to catch a few 'Manxies' drifting past but instead saw two cracking adult Long-tailed Skuas zip through my field of view! A subsequent 2 hour seawatch notched up a pale phase Arctic Skua, good numbers of Black Guillemots, 3 summer plumaged Great Northern Divers, 4,500+ Manx Shearwaters & 3 Bottlenose Dolphins! Two Storm Petrels were loafing about offshore later that morning. The wader passage has died off now, save for some nice flocks of Sanderling moving north (e.g. 28 on 21st). The best of the rest include a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flying south on Friday, a male Tufted Duck in Stringer's channels on Saturday & the Otter which is still knocking about in the evenings.
|Little Tern egg & nest variation © Niall Keogh|