Thursday, 30 May 2013

A Late Year?

Since the last update, the full fencing system around the main colony site has been completed, well in advance of the birds settling. Day time counts of terns continued to fluctuate markedly, peaking at 60-70 birds during evening roost watches (all normal behaviour on the run up to breeding). We've also come past a run of Spring Tides which just about reached the seaward fence in places but thankfully caused no damage on account of the offshore wind direction. Furthermore, there's been very little activity from potential predators in the general vicinity.

So all in all, no major complaints, everything going according to plan...except the terns have been late nesting!

Fencing around the main colony site © Niall Keogh
The annual Hedgehog check...none found! © Niall Keogh
Dusk roost watch along the foreshore © Niall Keogh

A pair was seen mating on 16th May which at the time, suggested to me that the first eggs were to appear around the 20th May (well within the average date range for first laying of 18th-21st May). But waited we did & the expected first clutch never appeared. And not for want of trying on the terns behalf! Courting & mating pairs were a regular sight along the foreshore in the mornings followed up by prospecting birds digging out potential nest scrapes in the afternoon.

Male (left) doing his best to court a female (right)...the biggest fish wins! © Niall Keogh  

A new arrival of fresh faced individuals over the weekend of Sat 25th/Sun 26th May brought some much needed vigour to the colony. Display flights known as 'dreads' became more frequent with up to 100 birds in the air at times. The sudden increase in noise that came with it didn't escape the attention of the public who regularly commented on the fact that it was great to hear the colony 'as it should be' once again.

Little Tern © Niall Keogh

And so it happened that on Monday 27th May, the first Little Tern nest of 2013 was found... K1, complete with 2 chocolate brown blotched, sandy eggs. A full week later than expected mind you, but hey, at least they've started!

Little Tern © Mark Carmody Photography

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


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!
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

Sunday, 12 May 2013

It's Tern Time!

The first Wicklow Little Tern sighting of 2013 was of 10 birds at Newcastle on 16th April. A high count for such an early date. Since then, numbers have been fluctuating between 15 & 30 birds most days as is standard practice for the time of year on account of the terns moving widely along the East coast before deciding where to settle and breed. The peak count at Kilcoole so far has been of 68 Little Terns roosting at the main colony site on 8th May.

Little Tern coming in to roost in the evening © Niall Keogh

In the run up to the first eggs being laid (expected anytime from next weekend onwards), myself & Cole have been living on site, getting the relevant equipment ready to enclose & protect the nesting birds. At present there is a basic cordon with information signs in place around the colony, marking out which areas are safe for members of the public to walk along. Once we get an idea of where the terns are likely to nest then we'll start putting up the more elaborate flexi-net & electric fence system.

In the meantime, we've been busy reacquainting ourselves with the local beach walkers who's continued interest in the terns & the project has shown no let up. It's great to see you guys again!

There are a few pairs of Ringed Plovers displaying on the beach & a pair of Oystercatchers hanging about so we'll keep an eye on these guys too throughout the season. I expect they'll lay sometime before the terns do.

At the moment the terns seem to be settling in fine with plenty of courtship & display noted yesterday along with a few potential pairs landing on the beach, the male in tow with a juicy sandeel 'gift' for the female.

Pre-breeding terns gathered along the foreshore © Niall Keogh

Other species of tern, such as this Arctic Tern, have been roosting on the beach in recent days © Niall Keogh

However, at present I am quite concerned about the state of the beach this year. After the frequent bouts of high tides & storms in 2012, the beach has yet to recover fully to its former extent and as such it is still quite narrow & low, leaving much of it vulnerable to flooding. Fingers crossed this will build up before the birds lay and that we'll have a calm summer ahead of us!!!