For the first time in a decade, the rarest tern species in Wales and the UK, a pair of roseate terns attempted to breed on the Skerries! The Skerries (c) Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
The Skerries are a group of small rocky islets which lie just off the northwest corner of Anglesey, Wales. Due to its sparse vegetation and rough terrain, it is inhospitable to humans; however the islands are an important sanctuary for breeding seabirds. The Skerries are particularly significant for breeding terns, supporting the largest Arctic tern colony in the UK with 3816 pairs along with 290 pairs of common terns in 2016. During the summer it is also home to breeding puffins, herring gulls, lesser and great black-backed gulls.
However, the Isle of Anglesey also supported another species of tern known as the rarest breeding seabird in the UK. There were only 106 breeding pairs in 2016. Roseate terns (Sterna dougallii) with their incredibly pale plumage with slight rosy flush and long tail streamers are considered the most elegant of the five British breeding terns. These endangered birds migrate each spring from the western Africa to breed at only a handful of colonies in the UK and Ireland.
The RSPB have been working to protect the seabirds on the Skerries for many years and last year saw the launch of the ambitious EU-funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project which brings together conservationists from the RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland and North Wales Wildlife Trust to address issues affecting breeding success on the three main breeding colonies. The project is also focused on preparing and restoring several sites within the former range of the population across Scotland, England, Wales, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the hopes of re-establishing thriving colonies of the roseate tern. Roseate tern decoys and nest boxes (c) Ian Sims
As a result, the additional funding towards the Skerries tern colony provided a two week extension on the wardening season, along with newly designed nest boxes being placed strategically around the islands. The wardens also placed lures playing roseate tern calls and hand-made decoys with the aim of attracting passing roseate terns to the colony.
The continued management of this site for these seabirds is done by two RSPB wardens who live on the island from May to August. Their accommodation is in the old keepers’ quarters in the lighthouse, and now boasts running water, electricity & hot shower thanks to improvements provided by Trinity House. The presence of the wardens has been a vital ingredient in the success of the colony over the years and by deterring predators, reducing human disturbance, providing nestboxes, managing vegetation (and monitoring all of it along the way!) they can greatly improve the chances of chicks surviving.
2016 RSPB Skerries Wardens with the newly built tern nest boxes and decoys (c) Ian Sims
The Skerries is a prime location as just across the Irish Sea is Rockabill, which hosts the largest colony of roseate terns in North West Europe with 1556 pairs. Nevertheless, the last time that a pure pair of roseate terns bred on the Skerries was in 2006. Whilst individual roseate terns have bred with common terns as hybrid pairs quite regularly in recent years, the wardens were delighted to find a pure pair of ‘rosies’ nesting in 2016, boosting hopes for the future of a roseate tern colony in Wales.
With the terns currently winging their way back from Africa, we await with eager breath to what the summer of 2017 will bring!
Roseate Tern in flight by Brian Burke
The harsh weather is one of the main causes for nest failure for ground nesting birds such as little terns, roseate terns and ringed plovers; however other causes include predators of which the results can be just as destructive.
Last week, 40 conservation driven individuals braved Storm Doris and travelled to North Norfolk to attend a Predator Management Workshop jointly organised by the LIFE+ Little Tern Recovery Project and the Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project. The two-day event covered a range of topics, which included sharing success stories and management practices along with some very good discussions. By exchanging knowledge and experiences especially between multiple organisations, we can potentially propose new solutions and will return to our sites/offices with a renewed enthusiasm in protecting these vulnerable nesting birds.
It wasn’t all serious, with a chance over dinner, to try out the Virtual Reality headset showing 360’ of Coquet Island and ‘see’ puffins that you can almost touch!
Participants came from a wide number of organisations such as Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Isle of Man Government, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Holkham Estate, Denbighshire County Council and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Thank you to all who attended.
'Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much' Helen Keller
2017 kicked off with some fantastic news from 'From the Notebook' donating £250 pounds for the sales of their Roseate tern 'Blush IPA' to Coquet Island!
Left to right: Paul Morrison, (head warden RSPB Coquet Island), Hilary-Brooker-Carey (RSPB volunteer), Michael Graham (Credence Brewery), Graeme Denton (From the Notebook)
The bird reserve is home to variety of breeding seabirds including the endangered puffin, the vulnerable eider duck and the UK’s rarest breeding seabird ‘the roseate tern.’ In 2016 there were only 106 nesting pairs of roseate terns in the UK, with 104 pairs nesting on Coquet Island in Amble. Consequently, this donation will greatly strengthen and assist these stunning birds by aiding the conservation work undertaken by the wardens.
The creation of this bespoke beer came about through the collaboration of, From the Notebook (Graeme Denton), Credence Brewing (Michael Graham) and Coquet Warden, Paul Morrison.
From the Notebook produces dedicated beers which honour and publicizes the uniqueness of wildlife. Through these aims this trademark aligns itself with various nature conservation charities, and dedicates its royalties to them. In this case, the beer is linked with our own Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project, while their other beers cover charities including BugLife, Bat Conservation Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.
Including from Daniel Piec! (Roseate Tern LIFE Project Manager)
Celebrations All Around!
The bottle is designed around the features of the charismatic roseate tern, with the pink bottle cap alluding to the slight rosy hue the birds get on their breast feathers during the summer.
Credence Brewery which is based in Amble, give this beer not only a unique and tasty flavour but also an added local link to the area which these rare terns are so enamoured with.
Another tribute to how vital Northumberland is, is the label on the Roseate Tern beer. Each From the Notebook beer label is tailored specifically to the wildlife that is being promoted, creating a lovely method of communicating the animal’s story and the Blush IPA is no different.
The label’s artwork is originally a painting by artist Paul Henery, a former wildlife crime officer for the RSPB, and it features a roseate tern in courtship standing in front of its only British breeding colony: Coquet Island emphasising the tenuous situation these birds are in.
However the donation from From the Notebook and Credence brewery sales will greatly benefit these vulnerable seabirds through funding some of the ongoing conservation work on Coquet Island.
Roseate Tern Blush IPA
Roseate tern chick and adult preening on RSPB Coquet Island Webcam - 17/08/2016
As we enter autumn, the roseate terns' breeding season is coming to a close and parents with their newly fledged offspring are starting to head to their wintering grounds of West- and South- Africa, stopping occasionally along the water's edge to rest. Roseate Tern fledgling (c) Wesley Davies
Although the numbers at their nesting areas are dwindling, there is still lots of tern activity being captured on the webcams. The photo above shows a synchronized preening session with an adult roseate tern and its chick.
Right now the chick on the webcam still looks quite fluffy, but given time and lots of fish from its hard-working parents, this chick will continue to mature, taking on a more fledgling appearance. It has already started! Note the pattern on the wings are just about visible on this roseate tern chick, revealing that it is already growing in its flight feathers. Common Tern fledgling (c) Brian Burke
Better keep your eyes peeled as soon this little chick and others will begin jumping and helicoptering about, building up wing muscle!
Once they have successfully 'fledged' - these young birds will continue to improve, getting more flying practice in and also start working on catching their own fish!
Common tern adults and fledglings are also still about and are also preparing for the up and coming migration.
For both tern species it is quite a lengthy journey, but the family unit will stick together allowing the fledglings to perfect their fishing technique.
Here is a quick way to identify between these two different fledglings (courtesy of Rockabill Blog).
"Roseate Tern fledglings are a little bit smaller than their Common counterparts, and are generally darker in their feathering, with black legs and a black bill. Overall they bear a closer resemblance to Sandwich Tern chicks, despite not being particularly closely related to them. Common Tern fledglings have a mostly orange bill with pink-ish legs and warmer brown and light grey colours to their plumage."
Below is some fantastic footage of a roseate tern chick on Rockabill Island practicing its flying skills. This one has got the hover part down, but it might have to work on its landing - though it is hard when your tail is still very short!
If you are interested in watching these fantastic moments live - just check out our webpage COQUET LIVE, otherwise we shall continue to upload small video clips onto our VIDEOS page in GALLERY.
Roseate Tern (c) C Macleod-Nolan
Like many migrating birds, roseate terns know no boundaries. This is what makes it is so important that the Roseate Tern LIFE project is a partnership covering multiple sites in different countries united in the aim to protect and expand the roseate tern breeding range in Britain and Ireland. Lady's Island Lake in the mist (c) C Macleod-Nolan
Last week was a great example of international working with Daniel Piec and Chantal Macleod-Nolan, who are overseeing and coordinating the LIFE project on behalf of the RSPB, crossing the Irish Sea and visiting the project sites.
Our first stop was Larne Lough in Northern Ireland where we were welcomed and met the warden and RSPB staff who are monitoring the area. Our resulting discussion was very insightful and along with actually seeing the site gave us with a much clearer understanding of how the site works and the breeding terns are doing this year. Throughout the visit we had some lovely sightings of fledgling Sandwich terns, common terns, black-headed gulls and black guillemots. Unfortunately with only one pair breeding at Larne Lough last year, roseate terns in Northern Ireland are facing extinction - making the support and funding the recovery project provides very important!
It was a misty start, but the weather improved and the next place to visit was Lady's Island Lake in the Republic of Ireland. It supports the second largest breeding colony of roseate terns in Ireland along with many other nesting birds including good numbers of Sandwich terns and common terns, which were busy returning with sand eels in their bill for their young. The site is managed by National Parks and Wildlife Services and it was great to hear that they have 202 pairs of roseate terns nesting there this year! Kilcoole Little Tern Colony (c) C Macleod-Nolan
Dalkey Island (c) C Macleod-Nolan
On our travels heading north we passed and dropped in to visit Kilcoole Little Tern Colony
. Last year they had 155 nests, but how had they fared this year? Had they been affected by any factors that affect roseate terns as well?
This year they had hatched 85 nests with 154 chicks, however the wardens have observed fox predation and poor food availability. The season is not over yet though and the site is currently still active (good numbers of little terns were flying about when we were there!). If you are interested in reading more about it, check out their blog: http://littleternconservation.blogspot.co.uk/
Dalkey Island was next and as we mentioned in a previous blog it is an important area for roosting roseate terns with intermittent breeding attempts. We were eager to meet with the new Dalkey warden (BirdWatch Ireland) and discuss how the nesting Arctic and common terns were faring this year and if any passing roseate terns had shown an interest in the newly placed nest boxes. Understanding the pressures these nesting terns are facing is important and if they are doing well, it may attract roseate terns who have a preference for nesting among other tern species. Roseate Terns (c) C Macleod-Nolan
It was also nice to hear about how Tuesday's Dalkey Tern Watch have been going - great 'tern' out if you can pardon the pun!
Last but definitely not least was Rockabill Island
, home to the largest roseate tern colony in North West Europe. This year they have 1556 roseate tern nests!
We were joined on this trip by wardens and staff from a number of Tern colonies in Northern Ireland and Wales (RSPB & NWWT) and were shown around by Rockabill warden Brian Burke (BirdWatch Ireland): http://rockabillterns.blogspot.co.uk/
In addition earlier in the week Rockabill Island also hosted the RSPB wardens from Coquet Island, England as well.
With added funding from the project, the wardens were able to start slightly earlier and prepare for the season controlling the vegetation and providing terns with more nesting opportunities! Currently the wardens are busy monitoring the nesting terns, observing predation and undertaking provisioning studies.
I would like to thank all the wardens and staff who took the time to show us around their sites. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to observe breeding roseate terns and their interactions, but all of these site visits and informal discussions are incredibly important with each site having their own intricacies and management approaches regarding their different breeding species, disturbance and predators. Exchanging knowledge and experiences potentially offer new solutions and allow us to return to our own sites/offices with renewed eagerness to continue protecting these rare birds!!!
Roseate Tern LIFE colleagues on Rockabill (c) Usna Keating/C Macleod-Nolan
Roseate Terns on Coquet LIVE (c) RSPB
Night Hide at the BALTIC (c) Daniel Piec
Roseate terns and Coquet Island have been making headlines in the news lately and here is the explanation on why that is.
As mentioned in one of our previous blog posts – an exceptional event happened with Coquet Island’s rare breeding roseate terns along with their puffin friends becoming stars with their own live camera feed.
To prevent unnecessary disturbance to these rare breeding seabirds, public access is prohibited to the island. Thanks to support from the LIFE Programme of the European Union and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund, Coquet Island is now the first ever roseate tern colony streaming live camera footage and it is being streamed on the internet for the whole world to see!
Wesley Davies, resident warden on RSPB Coquet Island, said: “We wanted to be able to share these amazing birds with the public, but what we didn’t realize is that the cameras give better views than we get on the island – with the advantage of not getting pecked.”
“It’s amazing watching the secret lives of puffins and roseate terns – they get up to more than we ever thought.”
Another amazing experience for the public occurred when a piece of Coquet Island was transplanted to Gateshead Baltic Arts Centre in Newcastle during ‘Creative Conservation Week’ in June! Fantastic artwork at the Baltic event courtesy of the youngsters that visited (c) Daniel Piec
The week included the island’s newly launched live webcam, informative and engaging art activities for youngsters and a witness the full immersive experience of 360 virtual reality of the puffin colony filmed on Coquet Island!
This impressive piece of technology, filmed by Edinburgh Napier University, allows you to get as close to being a puffin as possible and it really does makes you feel as if you were standing on the island.
One of the main attractions of this event was the night hide which has sheltered the RSPB wardens for 10 years during their 24 hour watches protecting the rare birds against egg thieves!
The night hide was made by award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn from Northumberland and the 6ft-by-6ft structure mimics the appearance of the lighthouse on Coquet Island.
Throughout the 10 years, this hide fended off the North Sea and weather; however it took its toll and eventually needed to be replaced. As a result the wardens now have a bigger hide, which has the luxury of glass panes in the windows, a new wood-burner and spins on its base to give an all-round field of vision.
“The old hide gave us 10 good years of service and we hope that the Baltic is not its last foray,” said Wesley. “It went down very well with visitors at the festival in London and its appearance at the Baltic event will give people a taste of what life is like on the island.”
Night Hide on Coquet Island (c) RSPB
Dalkey's Tern Watch (c) Andrew Butler
One of the recent 'Rockablog' posts was written by Andrew Butler, who is the Dalkey Island warden.
Dalkey Island is located approximately 400m off Sorrento Point on the County Dublin mainland. To the north of Dalkey Island lie two small islands, one with some vegetation and one just bare rock; known as Lamb Island and Maiden Rock. The islands are home to three species of tern: Common, Arctic and Roseate.
This site is one of the only three known sites in the Republic of Ireland where roseate terns have nested in recent years although their attempts here have been quite intermittent. However it is also an important roosting location for roseate terns before they migrate south for winter.
As a result there is on-going conservation work that is trying to encourage roseate terns to use and colonize this site as nesting area.
"This season for the first time since the late 1990’s we have 32 roseate tern nest boxes on Lamb and 7 on Maidens’, it is also the first time there has been an employed Warden for the islands since the late 1990’s. The new warden and nest boxes are in place thanks to the support of the Roseate Tern EU LIFE Programme, Dun Laoghaire & Rathdown County Council and of course BirdWatch Ireland who run the project."
"As well as the nest boxes we have also placed some gravel in the depressions in the rock as nesting substrate, to make the site as attractive as possible to terns looking to breed, especially Roseate Terns."
In addition the warden has also been holding a Dalkey Tern Watch every Tuesday evening at the pier at Collimore Harbour, pointing out the various breeding birds, raising the awareness about human disturbance and updating the public about the how the season is overall going!
Click here for the Full Story about how they prepared the sites and the other public engaging activities they've done: http://rockabillterns.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/guest-blog-dalkey-terns.html
Courtesy of the amazing LIVE cameras on Coquet Island, we are able to see some fascinating interactions between the nesting Roseate Terns!
In case you missed it, here are some great moments that RSPB Coquet Island have placed on YouTube for you to watch.
Roseate Tern (c) BirdWatch Ireland (photo taken under NPWS license)
Located 7km off the County Dublin coast, the island of Rockabill is an internationally important site for Roseate Terns since it supports over 80% of its north-west European population!!
It also supports other important and stunning breeding seabirds including common tern, Arctic tern, kittiwake and black guillemot.
The island is managed by BirdWatch Ireland
and no landing is permitted in order to limit disturbance to these sensitive nesting birds. There is a small team of dedicated wardens who live on the island monitoring these seabirds for the entire breeding season.
Recently they have just completed their full nest census which took two days to completed! This meant checking out all the nest boxes including nooks and crannies for nesting pairs and eggs.
"Their hard work has paid off with a fantastic count total of 1,556 Roseate Tern nests on Rockabill
which is 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."
All this information is from their regularly updated 'Rockablog'
which will enthrall you with the tales of these stunning birds - check it out!http://rockabillterns.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/rockabill-roseate-tern-count-2016.html
Rockabill Island (c) Zeezeilschool Scheveningen
Roseate Tern (c) Paul Morrison
Coquet Island, about a mile off the Northumberland coast, is home to internationally important seabird species, including the UKs rarest nesting seabird – the Roseate Tern!
Although Coquet is the only UK colony of roseate terns, The LIFE project aims to reverse this and is supporting many historic and possible new colonies around the UK. It is hoped that this extra support will lead to the re-colonisation of this enigmatic tern.
There is no public landings are permitted on the island; protecting its fragile habitats and special seabirds. However, as of 21st May 2016, the island is linked to the mainland through live camera feeds.
In the last month these cameras have revealed some amazing secrets from within the colony so far – with courtship displays, scraps, dancing and more.
In 2014, Coquet Island had 93 nesting pairs, however last year in 2015 they had a spectacular 111 breeding Roseate tern pairs.
Fingers crossed that the Rosys’ fortunes continue to improve in 2016 – check out how they are getting on at www.rspb.org.uk/coquetlive
Alternatively you can find the link on our website COQUET LIVE page.
Information provided Coquet Warden: Wesley Davies
Coquet Island (c) RSPB