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Saturday, 17 July 2021

Roseate Tern and other bits on the Maharees

With the superb weather, it was time to dig out the kayaks and hit the Maharees in the company of bird ringer, Alan MacCarthy, to ring some gull chicks. Due to other bird work commitments, it was a bit late in the season, with most already fledged, but worth a shot for some of the later broods.

Anther reason was to check on the terns nesting on the islands, and glad to report, it looks like a reasonably good season. And among the nesting Arctic and Common Terns on one of the islets, was an adult Roseate Tern. Barely annual in Kerry, this marks a welcome return to the Maharees where it wasn't recorded in the tern colonies over the last few years. 

One pair bred on Illaunbarnagh in 2006, but since then, records at the Maharees have petered out. Numbers of breeding pairs in Ireland (mainly at Rockabill on the East Coast) have risen in recent years, so hopefully that will be reflected in more records and perhaps future breeding here in Kerry.

Adult Roseate Tern, Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M.O'Clery).

Adult Roseate Tern (top, left of centre) with Arctic Terns, Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M.O'Clery).

Adult Roseate Tern (left), Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M.O'Clery).

3 recently fledged juvenile Little Terns, Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M. O'Clery).
Little Terns have been barely hanging on as a breeding species in Kerry, and the Maharees are the only colony. For the past three years, this has been of only 1 to 3 pairs, and in summer 2020 they failed completely, along with all the other terns - a series of storms in early June wiped out the nesting season for the Kerry birds, and much of the rest of Ireland. This year was better, three recently fledged juveniles were flying around Illauntannig, still being fed by their parents, so the 2-3 pairs at least produced some young this year.
Fledgling Lesser Black-backed Gull, Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M. O'Clery).

Alan, with a fledgling Lesser Black-backed Gull, Maharees, 17th July 2021 (M. O'Clery).

Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls appear to have increased in numbers on the Maharees in recent years, and it is hoped to do a fuller survey of their numbers next summer, combined with a colour-ringing project. 

Though the Roseate Tern was the rarest bird on show today, there was another strange sight... A flock of over 100 Curlew flew over the islands and then continued out to sea, heading in a NNW direction, out into open ocean. Where on earth where they heading?