Our Work

(1) East Coast Tern Colonies

Rockabill: With long-term funding from NPWS, BirdWatch Ireland have wardened this European stronghold for Roseate Terns since 1989. At the time, large gulls were the dominant breeding birds on the island and approximately 200 pairs each of Roseate Tern & Common Tern hung on in the former lighthouse keepers gardens. Since then the gulls have been kept at bay & management of the island has been targeted at the two key tern species. Numbers have risen dramatically with peak counts of 1200+ pairs of Roseate & 2000+ pairs of Common Tern recorded in recent years. Most management work focuses on vegetation clearance & deployment of over 600 nest boxes for the Roseate Terns. Virtually all young Roseates are ringed with field-readable Roseate Special Rings and by re-sighting these with have an incredible data set on the survival rates and fidelity of these special terns.

Rockabill © Julie Roe

Kilcoole: Wardening of the Little Tern colony on the shingle beach at Kilcoole began in 1985 when just 14 pairs were present. Thanks to a joint effort by BirdWatch Ireland & NPWS the population now stands at 50-100 pairs. This increase is thanks to the efforts of onsite wardens who monitor & protect the birds 24 hours a day from early May to early August. Extensive fencing around the colony helps protect the terns from predation by Foxes & Hedgehogs as well as disturbance caused by people & dogs. Given its proximity to a busy coastal walkway, the Kilcoole colony provides an excellent opportunity to view one of Ireland’s rarest breeding seabirds up close & personal. As such, the site is open to public viewing, proving popular with local school & scout groups as well as BirdWatch Ireland branches who visit frequently throughout the summer.

Incubating Little Tern at Kilcoole © Niall Keogh

Dublin Port: Oscar Merne, now retired from NPWS, has monitored & improved the tern colony nesting on the ‘mooring dolphins’ at Dublin Port for many years. As the colony has grown, BirdWatch Ireland staff have increasingly assisted to ensure that full censuses are completed & all the chicks are ringed. In 2011, 499 pairs of Common Tern & 37 pairs of Arctic Tern bred and well over 700 chicks were ringed.

Adult Common Tern & young at Dublin Port  © John Fox

Dalkey Island: The cluster of islands offshore from Coliemore Harbour supports a small tern colony that is overseen by active members of the South Dublin Branch of BirdWatch Ireland. Nest boxes are deployed for Roseate Terns & fine gravel is placed in hollows in the bare granite to encourage Common Terns to nest. Numbers vary considerably between years with 20-50 pairs of Common and Arctic Tern nesting plus a regular pair of Roseates which virtually always manage to raise young (up to 11 pairs of Roseates have bred in here in previous years).

Roseate Tern nest boxes & decoys at the Dalkey colony  © Niall Hatch

(2) Long term censusing & productivity monitoring of seabird colonies

BirdWatch Ireland coordinated the Seabird 2000 census within the Republic of Ireland. This involved the counting of cliff nesting seabirds at well known colonies such as Great Saltee, Cliffs of Moher & Horn Head as well as the first serious attempt to quantitatively census three nocturnal species (Manx Shearwater, European Storm Petrel & Leach’s Petrel) using the ‘tape-playback’ technique. In most years, BirdWatch Ireland staff are involved with seabird censuses & productivity monitoring at colonies such as Rockabill, Lambay, Skellig Michael & a range of sites from Downpatrick Head to the Killybegs in Donegal. BirdWatch Ireland is one of the key partners in the UK-Irish ‘Seabird Monitoring Project’ coordinated by JNCC.

European Storm Petrel  © John N Murphy

(3) FAME – tagging 

In the last few years, thanks to significant INTERREG Atlantic Area funding, BirdWatch Ireland has initiated a programme of GPS-tagging of nesting seabirds on Lambay Island during the incubation & chick rearing periods. This enables the foraging flights of breeding birds to be mapped and key feeding areas to be identified to help with conservation efforts. To date we have focused on four species: Shag, Kittiwake, Guillemot  & Razorbill. Some Gannets were also tagged in 2011. We are looking to extend this work in future years to other sites and possibly other species.

Kittiwake  © Laura Glenister

(4) FAME - Seatrack

Seatrack - "The Irish Seabird Passage Project", is a nationwide, land based seawatching survey which aims to assess the status & distribution of Balearic Shearwater & other seabird species which migrate along the Irish coastline. See here for more.

Great Shearwater  © John Fox