PictureRoseate 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.

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!

PictureLady's Island Lake in the mist (c) C Macleod-Nolan
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!

PictureKilcoole Little Tern Colony (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/

PictureDalkey Island (c) C Macleod-Nolan
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.

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!

PictureRoseate Terns (c) C Macleod-Nolan
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


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