Over the past two days, a groups of Little Terns (up to 50 individuals) have been observed close to the Baltray colony. At least two adult adults (presumably males) were parading about with fish in bills and slightly raised wings, looking for a suitable female to accept his gift of fish. This is typical courtship behavior and indicates that at least some of the birds are thinking about settling down in the area to attempt to breed. Although it is getting late in the season, we will monitor the behavior of the terns closely over the next week to look for signs of nesting.

Adult Little Tern with food indicating possible courtship display. (Jen Lynch – digiscoped imaged)

Among the group of Little Terns roosting near the colony, there were 8 recently fledged juvenile birds (with brown scaly backs and brown heads). Two of these birds were colour-ringed (green darvic with white lettering on the left leg, metal ring on the right leg). Steve Newton (BirdWatch Ireland) was able to confirm that these colour-ringed birds were fledglings from the Kilcoole colony in Wicklow. The presence of birds from the Kilcoole colony highlights the connectivity between the Little Tern colonies along the east coast of Ireland. Monitoring the site throughout the season, even when breeding has not been successful, will allow us to get a better understanding of the role Baltray (and other sites) play as feeding and roosting areas for Little Terns between fledging and migration.

Recently fledged Little Tern (bottom right) with adults (left) and adult Common Tern (top right) at Baltray, July 10th 2017. (Jen Lynch – digiscoped imaged)

If you have any spare time over the next week or two, please visit the colony and enter any observations you have in the blue notebook, located in the caravan. This will help us keep track of the tern numbers using the site and any signs of breeding behavior.  For those of your with sharp-eyes and telescopes, please keep an eye out for colour-ringed birds with inscribed rings. Please remember that the area (including surrounding sand dunes) is an important area for ground nesting birds including Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Ringed Plover. This means dogs should be kept under control (preferrably on a lead) and walkers should stay on established paths during the breeding season.

Ringed Plover still actively breeding in the colony – 10th July 2017. (Jen Lynch – digiscoped imaged)