Friday, 28 July 2017

Living Life On The Fledge Vol. II

Apologies to our followers for the lack of updates recently; the past couple of weeks have been hectic to say the least! The season is coming to a close, with 24/hr monitoring of the colony no longer in practice as the wardens are packing up. Most of the fencing has been taken down and put into storage, and numbers of Little Terns have been gradually depleting as they embark on their journey home. The last active nest of the season, K195, has hatched one chick successfully, so we're hoping this little dude will catch up with its peers.

The last little floof of the season beside the final egg of the season (which sadly, did not hatch). Photo taken under NPWS licence (I. Sullivan).
Though this chick is at a disadvantage having hatched this late into July, Little Tern chicks grow incredibly fast, packing on the grammes and milimetres to fledge in just under a month (25-28 days). Following some serious gainz, the chicks begin to grow their pins, developing wings capable of the great flight home. Parent Little Terns definitely deserve a pat on the wing for providing all the sprats, sandeels, gobies and more necessary to satiate the appetite of their chicks.

This older chick is really concentrating on wing development.. look at that unbroken gaze. Photo taken under NPWS licence (I. Sullivan).
A sketch of the right wing of the chick featured in the photo above. (I. Sullivan).
The wing of a fledgling. Notice the loss of yellow down, replaced by sturdy grey wings which have yellow and blue-green tones in the covert plumage. (I. Sullivan).

Recently, we were delighted to welcome a really wonderful enthusiastic group of after-schoolers from Little Harvard Creche & Montessori. A fantastic time was enjoyed by all, and we wardens are so chuffed to receive your artworks (Thank you!). I think this collage perfectly captures the essence of the Little Tern:

~Little Harvard-Little Tern Collaboration, 2017.~

We would also like to extend our gratitude to David and Barbara at "Wicklow People." Last week's edition of the newspaper featured an outstanding piece on the work carried out by the Little Tern Conservation Project. It's really great when the efforts carried out to protect the Little Terns are publicised in local media.

You can read their article about the Kilcoole Little Tern Project here.

There appears to be no rest for the wardens despite the season coming to an end, as a local Sparrowhawk has taken to agitating the colony over the past couple of weeks. Though continually chased and mobbed by the terns and wardens alike, this bird of prey could pose a major threat to remaining fledglings and the few young chicks left on the foreshore. Though we're packing up here at Kilcoole, there is still a significant number of terns around - I counted between 20 and 30 today. Therefore, it is vital we continue to respect their presence on the beach as the fencing is removed. 

We would like to extend a massive thanks to all beach users for continuing to ensure the Little Terns aren't disturbed.

Until next time,
Irene and the Kilcoole Team

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Basking Sharks and Basking Lizards

We have found (drum roll) 200 nesting attempts by the Little Terns at Kilcoole this year, with 220 chicks ringed, and numerous fledglings scattered along the foreshore. The chicks are doing very well, and are becoming more independent (and therefore, elusive) by the day. Regular fledgling counts have begun, during which a warden estimates numbers of chicks from a distance using a telescope. Last Wednesday, Chris and Andrew were delighted to welcome visitors from the Garden Team at Sunbeam House. A fantastic day was enjoyed by all, and the group showed great interest and enthusiasm- so thank you so much for coming down guys!! We hope to see you again in seasons to come.

Some chicks and fledglings waiting to be ringed. Photo taken under NPWS licence by Andrew McManus.

The variations in habitat at the Kilcoole site support a wealth of biodiversity. Every day it's possible to come across a species you haven't seen yet in the season. This week, a Basking Shark was seen by Andrew. This is a fantastic spot, as Basking Sharks aren't often present on the east coast. Catching a glimpse of a Viviparous Lizard while strolling along the path is always great, as is watching Grey Seals snooze in the shallows.

A viviparous lizard sunbathing. Photo by I. Sullivan.

The basking shark video is available on the Birdwatch Ireland Wicklow Branch Facebook page:

Over the weekend, we were delighted to welcome a group of visitors made up of highly experienced ringers, birders, and wardens from previous years - a big thank you to Declan, Paddy, Susan and Brian for the fantastic ringing session, and the BBQ!

The colony is beginning to quieten down, as numbers of Little Terns are starting to dwindle and more chicks are taking to the foreshore. However, we do have a few recent hatchings, and around 22 nests are still active. Though these eggs and chicks will not be afforded the protection of mobs of adult terns over the coming weeks, we are hopeful for their success. Stay tuned for the next blog post, which will feature drawings and descriptions of the Little Terns progression from baby hatchling to monster fledgling!

"Are you talkin' to me? Are.. you TALKIN'.. to ME?," - a suspicious fledgling photographed before it was ringed. Photo taken under NPWS licence. (Andrew McManus).

Cobber, the resident Mute Swan by the caravans, with his family behind him. Photo taken by I. Sullivan.
With thanks as always for all the encouragement and support we receive from the public down at Kilcoole.

- Irene and the Kilcoole Team

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Living life on the Fledge

Over the past couple of days, the waves rolled in upon the shingle at Kilcoole and the wardens were temporarily banished to the hide by the bad weather. The fencing around the southern colony was knocked by some unforgiving tides, but this has been repaired and is now back to being a secure barrier against predators. The first round of chicks have mostly entered their tweens, and are speeding around the beach, doing their utmost to evade ring-clad wardens. However, the older chicks are growing up fast, and a few fledglings have been spotted!!
Our fancy shmancy new scales, modelled by a Little Tern chick from the southern colony. Photo taken under NPWS licence (I. Sullivan).

Many birds are still incubating eggs and nests continue to be discovered. More and more puffed-up parents can be witnessed with their wings enveloping chicks and protecting them from the elements. Two very successful ringing sessions were carried out over the past week. A grand total of 190 chicks have been blinged so far. We look forward to their return in seasons to come.
An adult bird seen through the scope, incubating chicks. Photo taken under NPWS licence. (I.Sullivan).

On Thursday 22nd June
, Andrew Butler, Andrew McManus and myself were delighted to welcome Ms. Webb’s sixth class from St. Patrick’s primary school, Greystones. You guys were brilliant! Some excellent questions were asked and great enthusiasm was shown by you all, despite the fact that the walk from Greystones was a strenuous 7km. Nevertheless, Bear Grylls like stamina and good banter fuelled a fun-filled afternoon. As part of the interactive visit, the class were shown a nest on shingle made up of unviable eggs, to illustrate how effective their camouflage is on the beach. We also discussed the breeding behaviour, feeding ecology and migration of the Little Terns. A special thanks must be given to sixth class at St. Patrick’s for naming one of the Little Tern chicks “Réaltóg". We’re optimistic it’ll have a future as bright as it’s name.
The Kilcoole team would like to remind visitors to the beach to please avoid the Breaches outlet, as there may be chicks and fledglings around the area. We greatly appreciate your consideration for the Little Terns and their wandering.
- Irene and The Kilcoole Team