Sunday, May 22, 2011

Little Tern Colony, Kilcoole

Sunday morning, and whilst most people are still in their scratchers, Niall's out recording the progress for each of the 50 Little Tern nests at the Kilcoole Little Tern Colony.
 Little Tern, bringing in a gift of courtship. Sand eels, so romantic.
Little Tern - rare summer visitor from Africa to Ireland. Each year approx 100 Little Terns arrive at Kilcoole, find a partner, raise chicks and fly back to Africa in August.

Today I helped out at the Little Tern colony at Kilcoole, Co Wicklow. (for complete low down on the project click on the Little Tern blog link at the end of this post).

Niall had been up since 5am, so after he finished his Nest updates and we'd had a bit of natter, he went down to his caravan to get a bit of shut eye.

I stayed watching over the Little Terns and their nests until about 5pm. Most of that time was spent in the hide, which is perfectly positioned in front of the nests allowing a great overview of the Terns and all their antics without causing them any stress at feeling watched.
The hide also gave a great vantage point to spot oncoming dogwalkers or predator birds from North and South. This is the first year the hide has been in place and I can't see how they managed without it.

The Newcastle side of the colony is not so easily seen from the hide, so I did amble over that way a few times, crossing the bridge and walking along the fencing with the Oystercatcher's beady red eye watching me from her nest all the way.
Thankfully by the time I was handing duties back over, there were no real incidents. After all the hard work Niall, Jason and Cole have put into protecting these Little Terns I wouldn't have been best pleased to have to tell them of a loss to any of the 100+ eggs, 50 nests or adult Terns which have already set up home at Kilcoole.

All I had to report back were 2 possible new nests and my overheard quote of the day from an elderly couple. They were standing behind the hide watching the Terns sitting around in the sunshine, eating sandeels, obviously happy out...well that's what the women must have thought anyway when she said, 'Sure, you'd wonder why they'd bother going back to Africa...' the seriousness of her tone made me laugh anyway. I don't think she'd have said the same if she'd seen them the previous day in gale force winds and pouring rain.

Because I was so engrossed with the Little Terns and looking for predator birds whilst Ternsitting, I didn't really lift my eyes to the sea to see many other birds.
On my way to and from the colony though I saw Gannets out at sea, (I didn't see any manxies or divers) Shags, Cormorants, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers. Kilcoole was teeming with Swallows, Swifts (lovely to see) and Skylarks.
I also saw a very healthy looking male Reed Bunting hanging off a reed singing away, and a Sedge Warbler with it's pale supercilium, going hell for leather also singing it's little heart out.
If you look at the little tern blog you'll see that Niall saw a short toed lark down at kilcoole and there's also been a hobby, marsh harrier, poss white tailed eagle, buzzards, peregrine, quail, poss badger, otters and kestrel.

This post isn't doing justice to all the work Niall, Jason and Cole are doing in Kilcoole, I'm writing this late and rushing it - but just follow the link below to their most excellent and informative Little Tern blog - it will give you a way better insight into what's going on, or better still - volunteer yourself and get yourself down to Kilcoole, there's always something to be done. You've got until August.

Link to Little Tern blog = Kilcoole Little Tern Conservation blog

Not easy to see, but one of the Ringed Plover chicks was trundling around in front of the hide.

Centre of pic, Ringed plover chick
Other bird news just in, is that whilst out in Howth, Cara saw 'a Willy Wagtail, a Gull and 2 seals'. And a heron in Cellbridge. So there you go.