Sunday, 25 May 2014

Some nasty weather and the first nest!

After a promising start in Kilcoole, the poor weather of late has given us a minor setback. The wind, rain and cold have delayed the Little Terns nesting and we have only just found that elusive first egg today, but we're not complaining! We were getting a little anxious but after the stormy weather on the 23rd of May we’re glad they were a little late. The strong northeast winds coupled with the high tide took down part of our seaward fence and washed plenty of seaweed onto the beach which later attracted foraging Hoooded Crows, a major foe of the Little Terns. 

 The nasty weather on Friday © Andrew Power

The tides even managed to encroach as far as one of the Ringed Plover nests and one of the Oystercatcher nests. The resourceful Ringed Plover parents incredibly moved all four of their eggs out of the nest scrape about 30 cm away from the threatening tide to safety! The tide briefly and gently covered the Oystercatcher nest but we expect everything to be okay as eggs are resilient and durable. Both the Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers were incubating on their nests as normal when the weather calmed down.

The original nest scrape is on the left and the 4 eggs moved by the parents can be seen on the right © Andrew Power

It was sad to find an injured Guillemot in the colony that had obviously suffered from the horrible weather. It died shortly after we found it showing how tough the conditions were. Hopefully the bad weather will at least encourage the Terns to nest higher up on the beach.

A casualty of the bad weather © Andrew Power

To end on a positive note the first Ringed Plover chicks of the year hatched successfully on the 21st of May, nice and early.  We have also seen plenty of fledglings on site such as Pied Wagtails, Stonechats and Robins. The weather has certainly improved for the moment and it was great to see so many butterflies fluttering about, we spotted the first Painted Lady and Common Blue of the year today. We have a long season to look forward to and hopefully the sun will keep shining!

Kilcoole Ringed Plover with young © Andrew Power

Andrew Power 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A new season starts and farewell to our great leader!

The 2014 Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation Project has well and truly started. The wardens are on site, the fences are up and we are eagerly waiting for the first Terns to nest. The signs are good with flocks of well over 100 Little Terns roosting on the beach at night (max count 141). Ringed Plovers (6 nests) and Oystercatchers (2 nests) have started nesting within the colony and we expect the Terns to join the party any day now.

 Oystercatcher nest, Kilcoole © Andrew Power

We would like to take this opportunity, before the season really kicks off, to thank Niall Keogh for his substantial contribution to the project over the years. It was a strange feeling deleting Niall’s profile off the blog and moving into ‘his’ caravan! Niall started volunteering in Kilcoole as a teenager and has been a full time warden in Kilcoole for the last 4 years. His presence on the beach was almost as reliable as the Terns themselves, so much so that a day rarely goes by without a member of the public asking where Niall has disappeared to!

Both Darren and I would not be working on this project if it were not for Niall. I was first introduced to him in 2010 and quickly became a volunteer and a good friend. I joined him in Kilcoole as a full time warden on the project last year. Niall first met Darren last summer in somewhat more unusual circumstances during the  Bioblitz in Glendalough. Darren slipped on the boardwalk and Niall helped Darren stem the bleeding on his knee (a wound which ended up requiring six stitches)! Next thing Darren knew he was volunteering in Kilcoole and shortly after became a full time Little Tern Warden in Baltray.

Niall is spending his summer in Scotland (where he very much enjoys the food, drink and birds) and on the R.V. Celtic Voyager surveying seabirds and cetaceans. Niall recently saw a Bermuda Petrel, the first ever sighting in Europe, way off the Kerry Coast so he is just about managing to cope without the Little Terns this year. He has assured us that he will be volunteering here on his days off. In fact Niall has already spent several days down here volunteering already and fittingly he found the first nest of the year while I was asleep. Luckily we saved face and found a couple more after he left! Niall has even generously donated a spare tripod to the project this year. His good deeds go on….

Niall marking the first nest of 2014. Photo by RĂ­ona Howard

So on behalf of the project team we thank Niall for all his hard work, help and commitment to the project!

Andrew Power and Darren O'Connell