The Terns have had a great breeding season, with a peak fledged count of 273 seen on the evening of the 25 July. This is a whopping increase on the 46 peak fledged from last year. This is the combination of Common and Arctic Terns although the majority are Arctic Terns. This year has been incredible and is mostly likely due to a number of factors that have all come together and have lead the terns to have this amazing year.
With the rabbits decreasing in numbers last year due to a bout of myxomatosis that wiped out the majority of the colony, the vegetation grew very tall and provided cover for the terns, the chicks finding safety in the cover of this vegetation. Up at the Beacon where we had laid tern platforms at the beginning of the season, the vegetation grew tall and provided excellent cover around these platforms and there was hardly any predation noted.
The new visitor centre also created perfect nesting habitat for the terns, a flat rocky area. This attracted the terns to nest in a larger group in front of the centre leading down to the jetties. This is a perfect example of ‘safety in numbers’. The bigger the colony, the more eyes there are watching for predators and the more adults attacking the larger gulls that would come in the colony looking for an easy meal.
We also put large canes out to give the terns added protection from the gulls and also bunting around the edge of the colony to deter the larger gulls from walking in. The canes break up the flight pattern of the gulls and make it difficult for them to nip in and out. This is a technique that has been adopted by many tern colonies around the UK. We also put out shelters nearby so that chicks could hide under if there wasn’t much vegetation around.
All in all this has been a record breaking year and we are all really pleased at how the terns have fared. Hopefully they are now safely on their travels south to the Antarctic and we look forward to their return next year. With such a successful year, it bodes well for the future of the colony as the chicks that were born here will hopefully return to breed in a few years time. For now though, we can all breathe easy and walk to the jetty in safety without getting our heads pecked!
Keep posted this week to find out how the other birds on the island have done this season.