atest news from BirdWatch Wicklow, issued on Wednesday, May 18th 2022…
The first Little Tern eggs have been found on Kilcoole beach for this summer, following hot on the heels of several pairs of Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher.
It’s a timely reminder to watch where you walk on sandy and shingle beaches around the coast this summer, and keep dogs on their leads to ensure any breeding birds can nest without hassle.
Since the mid-1980’s there has been a concerted effort to protect nesting Little Terns on the beach at Kilcoole in north Wicklow. The conservation project is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and run by BirdWatch Ireland. After two weeks of setting up huge lengths of fencing and netting to keep out predators, people and dogs, as well as setting up our observation hide and getting our equipment in order, our wardening team have now begun 24/7 monitoring at the colony. Last year over 200 pairs of Little Terns nested at Kilcoole, which is likely around 40% of the entire Irish breeding population.
As well as Little Terns, there are Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher nesting on the shingle beach and benefiting from our conservation efforts there. This has been a hugely successful project to date, and proof that with long-term funding, the right equipment and staff, conservation efforts can work!
Similar projects are underway at Portrane in north Dublin, by the BirdWatch Ireland Fingal Branch, and at Baltray in Louth, by Louth Nature Trust, ensuring a network of colonies in relatively close proximity (as the tern flies!) and helping to secure the presence of the Little Tern in the Irish Sea and beyond.
As of Wednesday morning (18th May 2022), we have six Little Tern nests, six Ringed Plover nests, one Oystercatcher (and possibly a second) within the core nesting area. There are likely some other Ringed Plover nests further along the beach, which we’ll seek out in the coming weeks.
Even though we know there are nests of Ringed Plover, Little Tern and Oystercatcher on this shingle beach, they are incredibly difficult to find and often require careful observation from a distance away. With that in mind we can’t stress enough the importance of a) watching where you walk and b) keeping dogs on a leash, this summer when you’re walking on a beach or lakeshore or visiting coastal or inland islands. Every year we get sent photos of nests on beaches, so please be aware that it’s a breach of the Irish Wildlife Act to photograph a nest without a licence. So don’t worry about taking a photo if you find a nest, just concentrate on getting away as quickly as you can and allowing the parents to return!
If you’re on a beach this summer and spot a Ringed Plover or Oystercatcher watching you from a few metres away, maybe calling (but not always), or a small group of Terns flying and calling and seemingly agitated, these are all clues that you’ve disturbed them from their nest. If this happens, quickly and carefully get out of the area and allow them back to their eggs or chicks!
You can find out more about the Little Tern conservation right here, and about BirdWatch Wicklow right here.
Cover pic by Chris Dobson. Main pics by Emma Tiernan, taken under NPWS licence.
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