Saturday 25 June 2016

Rockabill Roseate Tern Count 2016

So we're roundabout the middle of the Tern breeding season at the moment - most either have chicks or have eggs that will very soon be chicks! Last week we carried out a full nest census of the entire island to find out how many pairs of breeding birds we have here on Rockabill. The census took place over two days, checking every nest box, patch of vegetation, and any cracks and crevices that might have Roseate Tern nests, and everywhere in between for Common and Arctic Tern nests!  Thankfuly after a few long and tiring days the news was very positive for our Roseate Terns...
Roseate Terns on Rockabill (picture taken under NPWS license)
Roseate Tern earlier in the season on Rockabill. (picture taken under NPWS license)
We counted 1,556 Roseate Tern nests on Rockabill - that's an increase of over 150 nests from last year. Such a big increase further cements Rockabill's status as the largest Roseate Tern colony in Europe and is down to a lot of hard work from all of the wardens and Birdwatch Ireland staff who have worked here over the years.

Around 700 of those 1556 nests are in nestboxes, again proving their value and importance to the species continued growth. We got around 100 new nestboxes this year thanks to funding from the EU LIFE project, and will hopefully continue to add more and more in the coming years.

Roseate Tern taking a look outside it's nextbox. (picture taken under NPWS license)

Two neighbours squabble atop their nestboxes. (picture taken under NPWS license)

A Roseate Tern sits on it's open nest to incubate two eggs. (picture taken under NPWS license)

This increase also bodes well for the EU LIFE-funded project that will run for the next five years. We'll be sharing our knowledge with wardens from Tern colonies elsewhere in the hope of re-establishing breeding Roseate Terns around Ireland and the UK and further safeguard the future of this elegant seabird! At the moment there are only three colonies in Ireland and the UK. So hopefully some of our Rockabill birds, particularly those from recent years, will stumble upon some suitable sites on their spring migration and decide to nest there in the very near future.

Don't forget, if you want to get an insight into the daily lives of Roseate Terns you can check out the live stream that our friends at RSPB Coquet Island have set-up. It's well worth a look!

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