Friday, 19 June 2015

Kilcoole Nursery

What a wonderful week we have been having down at the colony. After the exciting news last Friday that our first nest hatched two chicks, the fluffy-count has shot up. Today we have 54 little ternlets on the beach, and I daresay that number will be up again after this evening’s nest rounds. There are 117 active nests still out there with 240 potential hatches!

We have had all sorts of chicks. The first two that hatched are a week old now. They have moved away from Nest No.1 permanently and always appear in the same seaweed pile every morning. They’re huge, and gambol about after their parents with their tiny fuzzy wings outstretched for balance.

Younger chicks, such as those of Nest No.8, haven’t quite mastered the art of scampering during their first 24 hours on this earth. Master Nest No.8 gave me a right laugh this morning when he tried to climb out the sides of the nest scrape. On finally summiting the lip of the nest, he lost his balance, tipped over backwards and rolled all the way back down, finding himself with his little red legs and fuzzy white belly in the air before he was swept back under a protective grey wing.

We also had a most unusual sight when we reached Nest No.7 on last night’s nest rounds. Two of the three chicks are the usual sandy-and-speckled-black cuties, but the third is a snowy white albino tern with red eyes. Although the parents were happily brooding all three this morning, the albino is noticeably tinier and more helpless than his brothers. Only time will tell whether he is healthy enough to pull through his first days.

a snow white albino chick in the nest with his brothers © Paddy Manley (taken under NPWS licence)

© Paddy Manley (taken under NPWS licence)

For all the other ternlets on the beach, their first days have been kind to them. The weather is dry and so warm that many chicks are lying out in the sun next to their parents instead of cozied up under them. We have put out old roofing slates as “chick-shelters” to provide cool shade on intensely sunny days as well as a refuge in wind and wet. While one parent broods, the other hunts and brings food back to the nest. He lands beside his brooding mate, enthusiastically brandishing a sandeel in his bill. He holds it with great hope next to one wing, waiting for a young one to poke a head out. Nothing. He hurries to the other wing and waves the sandeel around in delighted anticipation. Finally, one chick catches on to the situation and the brooding parent jumps up suddenly as all three chicks struggle out from under her and come greedily running. The first one to the finish line wolfs down the eel, and straight away the parent is soaring back out to sea for more.

More tales from the colony to come.

Susan and Paddy

Big thanks to Seamus (again) for mending our gear (again).


  1. Great to hear that things are going well! Will be keeping my fingers crossed that the weather holds.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.