Monday, 16 June 2014

The first chicks and a record year!

It happened. The record has been broken. There are an astonishing 108 active pairs of Little Terns in Kilcoole. The previous record was 106 pairs in 2006. Incredibly, we are still finding nests and are expecting some more to relay. We were agonisingly stuck on 99 nests on Saturday the 14th of June but we completed the century with a tentative single early Sunday morning. This was perfect timing for the hugely successful Carlow and Wicklow Branch of BirdWatch Ireland outing later in the morning. Darren and I were both involved with the Baltray Little Tern Project last year which was also a record year so our good luck continues. However, we are under no illusions and records do not matter in June. We will see how the Little Terns are doing in August! Nevertheless it is great to see so many of them nesting here and with the good weather we hope this excellent start continues. 

Kilcoole Little Terns © Peter Cutler

The good news does not stop there as our first Little Tern chicks of the year hatched today! K1, found on the 25th of May, had 2 chicks this morning. When we checked the nest the second chick had just hatched and it was unusual to see the egg shell still in the nest and yolk on the head of one of the chicks! K1 was laid earlier than the rest of the group so most off the hatching will take place later this month. There are a staggering 244 eggs on the beach. This makes the colony all the more attractive and vulnerable to predators. The colony is now a beacon to predators with so many birds and eggs and the density of nests is so high that any stray dogs (or members of the public!) have a much higher chance of crushing eggs if they enter the colony. 

The first Kilcoole Little Tern chicks 2014 © Anne-Lise Gerard & Andrew Power (Picture taken under NPWS  licence)
We started seeing some strange creatures drifting under the bridge into the lagoon a couple of days ago. We now have up to 40 Barrel Jellyfish washed up into the lagoon. Some of them are gigantic and can be up to 80 cm in diameter and weigh 35 kg! Check out this link to find out more - The good weather has also brought out the more colourful day flying moths such as the Hummingbird Hawk moth, the Six-Spot Burnet moth and the Cinnabar moth. The Oystercatcher chicks that hatched last week seem to be doing very well and starting to bulk up in size. We've also got another Oystercatcher pair nesting in the south end of the colony which gives us a total of 3 nests in close proximity. This gives the terns in the south end of the colony 6 hefty bodyguards. 

Barrel Jellyfish © Anne-Lise Gerard 
Kilcoole Oystercatcher chick © Anne-Lise Gerard & Andrew Power (Picture taken under NPWS  licence)

Andrew Power and Darren O'Connell

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