Sunday, 29 June 2014

Chicks, chicks and more chicks!

Wow, what a busy couple of weeks we have had in Kilcoole! Apologies for the lack of recent updates, the beach has really come alive since our last blog post. It is a minefield out there with new nests still being found and chicks running riot. We now have an army of 150 chicks on the beach with a further 90 eggs expected to hatch! It's a great and busy time to be a warden and we are thankful that the good weather is holding up. 

Kilcoole Little Tern flying off nest © Peter Cutler & Andrew Power (Picture taken under NPWS  licence)
On the 19th of June, after the Spring tides, disaster struck the colony. A mild easterly combined with a high tide was enough to flood the foreshore and it effected almost 30 nests. 10 nests were destroyed completely and it was horrible seeing random eggs washed up in amongst the seaweed. Some nests were completely submerged but stayed put, others were carried by the tide into different locations (and later regathered by the adults) and other nests lost some of their eggs. However, Little Tern eggs are resilient and it was with great joy that we watched the majority of the tide effected nests hatch in the past couple of days. Needless to say that chicks are much better than eggs at avoiding the tide!

Some of the chicks hatching are incredibly small, the smallest chick to date hatched today and weighed a mere 4.57 grams. The first chick to hatch (K1) which is the largest one by some distance (nicknamed Juggernaut) has walked about 400 metres north and out of the colony protection. It may be the biggest but not the brightest! Hopefully it will go undetected outside the colony and fledge successfully. Unfortunately we found 2 more nests far outside the main colony, 1 with chicks and 1 with eggs. Sadly there is not much we can do in this situation so we ask any people walking the beach to try and stay on the path or at least be mindful that not all the terns are in the safety of the fencing!

Little Tern chicks showing different colour legs © FĂ©aron Cassidy & Andrew Power (Picture taken under NPWS  licence)
Kilcoole Little Tern chick (Cedric) © Andrew Power (Picture taken under NPWS  licence)

We would not be able to stay on top of all the work here in Kicoole if was not for the help of our volunteers. We are very grateful for all the hours they have put in and it really makes a big difference to our efforts here! So, all in all, things are looking very good in Kilcoole. Regardless of what happens with the rest of the season we know that the Little Terns are doing well by the record numbers here and in Baltray. It is a great time to come down and see the colony so why not pop down for a visit?

Volunteer Cian Cardiff helping warden Andrew Power © Chris Dobson

Andrew Power and Darren O'Connell


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