It was a sunny afternoon on the beach yesterday, and despite the large numbers of visitors in the sand dunes there was no one on the beach. This gave me an opportunity to watch the terns undisturbed. As the tide dropped about half of the birds were very busy washing themselves. There were two bathing strategies in use. Some wading into the shallow water, and using their wings, flicking water up on their backs. Others took a more energetic approach, flying down close to the water and “dipping” themselves repeatedly.

Little Tern “IVD” at Baltray with a green colour-ring on the left leg and a metal ring on the right leg. (Jen Lynch, digiscoped image). 

After taking a wash the terns spent quite some time preening or arranging their feathers. This is important to maintain their feathers, which are responsible for flight, warmth and sun protection! Between bathing and preening I was able to count 57 Little Terns roosting on the beach, including 2 recently fledged juveniles. Among the group there were two colour-ringed adults. Luckily the birds were relaxed and there were no other disturbances on the beach so I was able to get close enough to the flock to read the inscription on one of the rings. Both adults had green colour-rings with white writing.

Once I was certain of the ring inscription, I sent it off to Steve Newton (BirdWatch Ireland) to find out more. Steve got back to me today and informed me that “IVD” was ringed as a chick in the Kilcoole colony (Wicklow) on the 1st of July 2015. Little Terns don’t usually breed for the first time until they are 3 years old, so it is likely that “IVD” (who has just turned 2) is enjoying “teenage” life, getting familiar with all the good places to nest, roost, feed etc along the coast and will hopefully return next year to breed.

The mystery Little Tern – help needed to read rings at the colony! (Jen Lynch – digiscoped image). 

As you may have noticed, there was a second bird, with a colour-ring at the colony (green colour-ring on the right). Despite my best efforts I was unable to read the inscription, but maybe you can help? If you are visiting the colony, please enter your observations (including any colour-rings read!) into the blue notebook in the caravan. Alternatively you can send details in a message to the LNT Facebook page.  Please remember that a number of ground nesting species are still breeding along the edge of the beach and in the grass and sand dunes, so please stay on established paths and keep dogs on leads.