Thursday, 19 May 2016

Kitti-City Under Construction

As a warden on Rockabill, the first thing that strikes you on your arrival at the start of the season is the huge amount of Tree Mallow and other vegetation covering the island. Needless to say several months of bird droppings provides all of the necessary nutrients for a select few plant species to thrive! The only problem is that 90% of this vegetation needs to be removed to make space for nesting Terns... so that means two weeks of hard work for the two wardens... possibly the worst part of the season for us!

One of our gardens at the start of the season - like a jungle! (DKS)
And this is the same garden after a lot of hard work! Room for plenty of Common Terns, and a few Roseates at the edges! (DKS)

We remove mountains of vegetation, and where possible throw it in the sea where it is swiftly spotted by our Kittiwakes, who fly in to claim it as building material for their nests! Some are still under construction as I type this, though it shouldn't be long before we see our first egg in Kitti-City!

Kittiwakes are in decline in this part of the world, likely due to climate change and the knock-on effects in their prey species. Though our Rockabill population is comparatively small to those elsewhere in Ireland and the UK, we did have an increase in breeding pairs last year so fingers crossed that continues in 2016! 

Kittiwakes gathering vegetation from the sea (BB)

There are some squabbles over the good bits! (BB)
...and they have to watch out for waves! (BB)

Their nests start out fairly modest, but will be added to bit by bit until they're capable of safely holding 1-3 eggs. (BB)

They'll also add bits of seaweed gathered from rocks at low tide - nests getting bigger every day! (BB)

The nests need a bit of work... (BB)
... and there might be the chance to 'borrow' some materials from your neighbours (BB)
Eventually they'll have made a sturdy, comfortable nest with a  great view! (BB)