Friday, 29 May 2015

2015 East Coast Tern Projects

BirdWatch Ireland has a long history of undertaking wardening, conservation, monitoring and research at breeding colonies of vulnerable tern species along the east coast. This work continues in 2015 with most of the terns now at their respective nesting sites and getting on with the business of courtship, display, mate selection and egg laying.

All of these breeding sites are wardened or monitored by trained seabird staff. Some of the colonies are safe to view for the public while others are not. Certain sites however even call for members of the public to get involved as volunteer wardens!

Information relating to the birds, access and viewing options at each site can be found below:

(1) Baltray, Co. Louth
The sandy beach at Baltray near Drogheda is home to a colony of Little Terns which has benefited greatly from protective fencing and round-the-clock wardening provided by a joint BirdWatch Ireland and Louth Nature Trust project which has seen the population of breeding birds here rise to over 100 pairs. Members of the public are encouraged to visit the project to view and learn more about Little Terns but please follow the designated route on site around the colony and heed instructions given by the wardens.

Updates from Baltray can be found on the Louth Nature Trust Little Tern blog.

Volunteer! To volunteer at Baltray beach please contact Breffni Martin ( or call the site hotline 086 2434874

Little Tern © Terry O'Rourke

(2) Rockabill, Co. Dublin
Home to Europe's largest Roseate Tern colony with upwards of 1,250 breeding pairs (most of which raise their young in custom made nest boxes). All these Roseates alongside over 2,000 pairs of Commons Terns, small numbers of Arctic Terns plus Kittiwakes and Black Guillemots make this isolated rocky island a hectic place to work! 

Rockabill is off limits during the breeding season but you can keep up to speed with all the latest developments by checking out the excellent Rockablog or by following the wardens Brian Burke and Andrew Power on Twitter.

Alternatively, why not book a boat trip with Skerries Sea Tours and view the Rockabill terns from a safe distance at sea?

Roseate Tern in a nest box © Brian Burke

Working on Rockabill is not for the faint-hearted! © Brian Burke

(3) Dublin Port, Co. Dublin
A bustling colony of up to 500 pairs of Common Terns and up to 100 pairs of Arctic Terns breed within the confines of Dublin Port along the River Liffey where the birds are monitored annually by staff from BirdWatch Ireland. New custom built tern rafts have been put in place for the terns by the Dublin Port Company, one in the Tolka Estuary and one in the River Liffey which is on view from the base of the Great South Wall. This is an ideal location to watch the terns from a safe distance where they can be seen travelling to and fro on foraging trips, beaks full of fish for their hungry chicks.

Keep an eye on the Dublin Bay Birds Project blog for updates on the Dublin Port terns.

Arctic Tern © Dick Coombes

(4) Dalkey, Co. Dublin
The islands off Coliemore Harbour at Dalkey host a small mixed colony of Common, Arctic and Roseate Terns. Numbers fluctuate year on year in response to weather, storms and disturbance. Please do not land on the islands if kayaking, scuba diving or sailing in the area as it will cause fatal disturbance to eggs and chicks. Alternatively, the terns can be viewed safely from Coliemore Harbour where a permanent telescope is in place and also during organised tern watch events held by the South Dublin Branch of BirdWatch Ireland every Tuesday evening in July from 6:30pm-8pm.

For more information see the Dalkey Tern Project webpage or download the information leaflet.

Tern watch event at Coliemore Harbour

(5) Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow
The Little Tern conservation project at Kilcoole has been running since the 1980's when just 20 pairs could be found. Thanks to the installation of protective fencing around the colony during the breeding season along with 24/7 wardening from BirdWatch Ireland staff and volunteers between May and August, the colony has now grown to record levels with 120 nesting pairs in 2014! Open to the public, this is a great site to visit to see conservation work in action with wardens on hand to aid viewing of one of Ireland's rarest seabirds through telescopes from a safe distance. Several organised BirdWatch Ireland branch events are also held here throughout the summer.

Updates from Kilcoole can be found on the Little Tern Conservation Project blog and a 20 minute documentary about the project can be watched online via the Crow Crag Production website.

Volunteer! To volunteer at Kilcoole please contact the project wardens at

Protective fencing around the tern colony at Kilcoole © Niall Keogh

Little Tern chick and egg © Peter Cutler/Andrew Power