The terns have finally arrived albeit in very low numbers and are finally starting to spend full days in the area. Up until about three or four days ago, we were getting sightings of about 6 little terns arriving in the morning and staying through the high tide before disappearing at around midday. However there are now consistently 6-10 terns observed in the area throughout the day, flying between the sea and river Boyne and over the nesting area. Unfortunately there have not been many landings within the fenced nesting area, with only two pairs observed landing and for a relatively short period. One of these pairs was observed scrape building and earlier in the week while mating was observed in the other. It is unclear where these little terns are roosting however, as they all disappear between 8-9 PM each night. Hopefully those that are staying around the nesting site will begin to attract in more and we will see the first nesting attempts during the week.

Little tern with sandeel

Little tern with sandeel

There have been some courtship displays observed with the male little tern offering a sandeel or sprat to the female but these has only been seen with a couple of pairs. The sandeels seem plentiful as each time a tern flies off to fish they are returning within a matter of minutes with a new fish to eat. Sandwich terns, common terns and gannets have all been observed plunging into the sea feeding a number of times since my last post.

Little tern

Little tern

The ringed plovers are continuing to nest but are currently undergoing a hard time due to depredation. Of the 5 plover nests found only one was actually inside the electric fenced area and all but one nest has been predated. The remaining nest is hidden further up the beach in some marram grass close to the dunes and is better hidden that those that were predated already. The main culprits are the rooks and hooded crows, which fly low over the nesting area scanning for eggs. Wardens have intensified their chases and vigilance in an attempt to reduce egg loss. There have been a number of ringed plover scrapes discovered by the wardens however most of these were already empty of eggs. Some eggs have been lost over night leading the wardens to believe that there may be a fox taking eggs during the nights. In response to this there will be some volunteer watches during the night period.

Fox tracks in the sand between nesting area 1 and nesting area 2

Fox tracks in the sand between nesting area 1 and nesting area 2 

The only protection the ringed plover and little tern eggs have against predators is that they have excellent camouflage and blend in with the shingle beach. This can lead to then getting accidentally trampled by recreational beach users and this, along with where the little terns are and what is causing them to arrive so late, was discussed last night on “Mooney Goes Wild”. If you missed the show you can listen back on the RTE Radio Player here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/mooney/#2202504

Camouflage is the only protection the eggs have against predators. Can you see the ringed plover egg in this photo?

Camouflage is the only protection the eggs have against predators. Can you see the ringed plover egg in this photo?

 

Ringed plover nest with one egg

Ringed plover nest with one egg

At the moment we can only wait and hope that the few little terns that have decided to stay around will attract in a few more and hopefully they start to build scrapes and lay eggs. I will check back in with an update in another week. Lets hope it is with good news!

Kevin Delahunty 13/06/2016

Little tern

Little tern