Thursday, 8 June 2017

BREAKING: First Chicks!

This week marked two major milestones of the season here on Rockabill. Firstly, we are in the midst of the all important nest census (or in the official parlance; The Great Egg Hunt). The nest census involves us covering every inch of ground including paths, tops of walls and the most unlikely looking undergrowth. Counting the number and size of the clutches for each species is a vital part of monitoring the effectiveness of the our conservation efforts for the Roseate, Common and Artic terns. An accurate count of nests on the island along with the data from our intensively monitored study plots gives us information on the number of fledglings produced by Rockabill each year. The nest census also tells us the number of breeding pairs on the island- one of the most important measures of the health of any species.

Our first Roseate chick, sheltering in a nestbox. Picture taken under NPWS licence.

Today we were very excited to find our first chicks of the season! Our first Roseate chick hatched in a nest box and we stumbled across a very well camouflaged Common Tern during the census. This means we are moving into a new phase of our duties here as wardens. We will monitor the growth rates of each chick in our study plots which is a great indicator of their health and ultimately the quality of their diet. The ability of the adult terns to fish is a major concern as our marine resources are severely strained due to overfishing. Hopefully our feeding studies later in the season will shine more light on this aspect of the terns ecology.

Freshly hatched Common Tern. Picture taken under NPWS licence.

The noble visage of Andrew Power, grandly surveying all that lays before him.

Finally, a huge shout out to Andrew Power who was here last week to carry out fieldwork for his PhD on marine contaminants.  It was a privilege to have one of Irelands leading wildlife conversationalists (sic) in our midst! Come back (bring food).



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