We parked at Kilcoole beach car park and trekked the 1.6 kms to the Colony. Because this is a public beach the birds are protected by a fenced-off area which is attended 24/7 by members of Birdwatch Ireland during the nesting period. Birdwatch Ireland members spend two weeks setting up the fencing and the observation hide.
We came across two such dedicated wardens who were very generous with their time and answered our questions about their wards.
Terns have nested here for over 100 years and lay their eggs directly onto the shingle beach. They choose this location because the stones act as camouflage as they are almost identical to the colours of the eggs. Each bird lays 2-3 eggs after hatching for 18-22 days. Fledging takes a further 19-20 days.
In addition to Terns, there are Ringed Plovers and Oyster catchers on the beach.
We spotted a number of chicks who ventured away from their nests whilst their parents took turns to hunt sand-eels to feed the brood. They were quickly ushered back to the nests however, making photographing them quite difficult.
In terms of equipment, due to the fencing arrangement, we would recommend no smaller than a 400mm lens if you want to capture the chicks. For the flying Terns and other birds a smaller focal length, possibly 300mm would suffice.
Bird activity was quite active as the parents shrieked and kept flying intruders away. Luckily the Sun shone for the majority of the time that we were there. For those who wish to capture chicks the latest time would be up to the end of June.
All in all, a wonderful morning’s Outing and we would highly recommend it.
Some images (click on an image to open in full-screen mode) from the outing can be seen below: