Saturday, 19 May 2012

Nearly There

It's really starting to kick off down on the beach. After completing the full system of flexi-net & electric fencing around the K-colony during the week, the Little Terns started settling down straight away, almost as if they were waiting for us to finish it! Several pairs have been busy up on the highest parts of the beach, digging around looking for nest scrape sites & lots of attempted matings noted. About 70-100 birds were present most days but numbers peaked on Thursday with a whopper 164 terns counted around 2pm when most were day roosting along the foreshore. Whilst scanning through the flock a pair were seen displaying in a manner suggesting they were about to mate...and they did! Laura has reported 3 more confirmed copulations this morning so it could well be this weekend when we find our first nests (fingers crossed).

Scrape digging © Niall Keogh
Attempted mating! © Laura Nuttall
The number of Ringed Plover pairs breeding in the colony has risen to six (1 pair with a chick & 5 pairs on eggs), whilst the Oystercatchers are still incubating away in almost exactly the same spot they nested last year. The 'Oycs' are great to have around as they add some serious muscle to the colony defence force, readily driving away any crows or gulls that come too close as well as causing a racket if any Foxes or Hedgehogs were to pop in at night. 

Ringed Plover © Niall Keogh
Oystercatcher © Niall Keogh
On the subject of predators, there are plenty of Hooded Crows & Rooks about, mostly feeding in the estuary & in the fields but thankfully their presence on the beach has diminished since the wardening effort stepped up a notch after the fencing was completed. A pair of Kestrels & a pair of Sparrowhawks have been seen frequently, most often around the Sea Buckthorn where they are busy hunting for their favoured prey (small mammals & small birds respectively). A Peregrine has homed in on the area & and has made three attempts on the Little Tern colony to date, one of which was successful! Cole saw the adult Peregrine take a Little Tern in flight over The Breaches on Wednesday. For the past few years, Peregrines have predated a small number of terns, usually at the start of the breeding season, but not in any numbers to cause abandonment of the colony site. There has been no sign of any mammalian predator activity which is encouraging. We conducted a thorough check of the Marram dunes for Hedgehogs & found nowt but a Field Mouse!

Hedgehog checking © Laura Nuttall
Kestrel © Niall Keogh
Birding in the area has been quite productive lately with the highlight certainly being a PECTORAL SANDPIPER which was found in 'Webb's field' on Tuesday evening. This North American vagrant was most likely blown across the Atlantic last autumn during Hurricane season, migrated south during the winter & is now heading back North in Spring, but just on the wrong side! It was twitched the next day by about 10 local birders.

Pectoral Sandpiper © Niall Keogh
There was a large fall of Wheatears last weekend, with a peak count of 85 on Sunday. Most hung around for a few days after & were joined by a female Yellow Wagtail & a couple of White Wagtails. No sign of the Spring wader migration slowing down yet either with lots of Whimbrel (70+), Dunlin (95+) & Oystercatchers (40+) about in particular. Groups of summer plumaged Turnstones & Sanderling are migrating North along the coast & small numbers of scarce Wicklow species such as Grey PloverKnot & Bar-tailed Godwit add a nice Arctic flavour to the mix. Summering wildfowl still about include 4 Gadwall, 3 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler, 2 Tufted Ducks & 2 Pochard.

Female Wheatear © Niall Keogh   
Linnet © Niall Keogh   
A couple of pairs of Swallows are breeding under The Breaches bridge © Niall Keogh      
An injured Dunlin © Niall Keogh  

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