Thursday, 10 May 2012

Numbers Building

Wet, windy & miserable! Pretty much sums up the past week for us down here on the beach. Strong South Easterlies coupled with a Spring tide hammered the colony site on Monday, with waves reaching well up beyond the half way mark in places. Exactly the sort of weather event we don't want in a month or so! Thankfully none of the Little Terns have started nesting yet, with most birds spending alternate days fishing at sea. 

Little Tern © Ronnie Martin

Serious bit of weather! © Niall Keogh
Flock sizes have been fluctuating markedly throughout the week, typical for this time of year as birds move between sites before finally settling down to breed. At times the colony can seem almost deserted, then all of a sudden a flock of 50-80 terns will land in, forming a raucous line along the foreshore with birds displaying to each other between bouts of preeningOur peak count was of c.120 terns during the rough weather on Monday, 70 of which were resting along the K-colony foreshore whilst another 50 were out to sea. Amongst the resting flock was a tern sporting a blue plastic ring, most likely one of two blue colour-ringed birds we have seen here in 2004, 2010 & 2011. The terns were more settled yesterday with several pairs prospecting for nest sites & even a failed mating attempt noted. It's starting to feel like a real colony now. 

Little Terns in courtship flight (male on the left with the fish) © Ronnie Martin
Foreshore antics! © Niall Keogh
Our first nests were discovered on 12th May last year (quite an early date) so I reckon if we don't find any by the end of this weekend it will be next weekend before any action happens (the traditional first egg laying dates would be around 18th-21st May). The system of fencing around the main colony is nearly finished with the landward section, including designated viewing areas for the public, fully set up. We're just waiting for the high tides & rough weather to abate before deciding on where to place the seaward length of fence.

Other species of birds breeding locally have been performing well too. The Lapwing in Webb's field are now up to 20-22 pairs (15 of which have a min. of 40 chicks), a few pairs of Shelduck have been mooching about potential nest sites, the Skylarks in the K-colony dunes are busy feeding their first brood, 4 pairs of breeding Ringed Plovers have been found within the tern colony area & 2 pairs of Oystercatchers have also been seen mating and are expected to lay eggs any day now.

Shelduck © Niall Keogh
Ringed Plover © Ronnie Martin
An incubating Ringed Plover keeping a watchful eye! © Niall Keogh
Ringed Plover egg & chick © Niall Keogh
Skylark chicks in the nest © Niall Keogh
Oystercatcher at the K-colony © Niall Keogh

Wader passage has been much the same since my last update with max. daily counts as follows: Dunlin (91), Whimbrel (82), Oystercatcher (36), Turnstone (29), Sanderling (15), Black-tailed Godwit (13), Ringed Plover (10), Curlew (5), Grey Plover (2), Redshank (1), Bar-tailed Godwit (1) & Snipe (1).

Other birding highlights include: a 2nd calendar-year Little Gull in The Breaches, a Red-breasted Merganser flying South & a 2nd calendar-year Mediterranean Gull flying North at sea on Sunday 6th. A rather tired looking Lesser Redpoll was seen in the K-colony dunes on Monday 7th (bizzare record!) & a stunning 2nd calendar-year type female Marsh Harrier flew through on Tuesday 8th. Another Marsh Harrier was also seen on Tuesday by Brian Haslam, this time a 3rd calendar-year type male, south of The Breaches.

Whimbrels (curved bills) & Bar-tailed Godwits (straight bills) © Ronnie Martin    
Summer plumaged Red-throated Diver just offshore © Ronnie Martin
Summer plumaged Dunlin on the beach © Ronnie Martin

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