Sunday, 2 August 2015

As Autumn arrives, Africa beckons

Nesting at the colony has finished for the 2015 season. All our chicks have come of age - the last chicks fledged two days ago. We have been getting consistently high counts of roughly 130 fledges loafing on the foreshore for the past week, indicating high fledgling survival. The fledges still need time to learn how to be big Little Terns before they can leave the protection of the colony. They still depend heavily on their parents for food, and will need to become that little bit more independent before the journey to West Africa.

The departure for migration draws ever closer. The fledglings are practicing hard at flying and hunting. They regularly practice offshore behind the breaking waves or in the lagoon as the tide is rising. Some have graduated from hovering and diving to braving the actual plunge into the water. However, I still have to witness a successful catch!

Other avian migrants have been coming through Kilcoole. The Swallows and Sand Martins are readying themselves, and flocks of Siskin came through last week. Wheatear have also been spotted. Curlew and Black-headed Gulls are returning from their inland breeding sites to spend the winter at the coast. The flora of Kilcoole are approaching the Autumn too, with most flowering plants around the colony fruiting. The Wild Carrot, Mustard, Hogweed, Kidney Vetch and the grasses are gone to seed.

This year has been off the charts in terms of nesting attempts and successful hatches! The Little Terns have done fantastically well in Kilcoole, while Common Terns and Roseates also had a very successful year in Rockabil. Years like this are very encouraging and a real morale-booster for active conservation in Ireland. We will soon be able to say for sure how many Little Terns successfully fledged in Kilcoole and headed off for southern climes. Unless a tornado comes through the colony, we may be have another record year!

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