Tern after tern this season

As you’ll know, it has been a rollercoaster of a season here at Mull Eagle Watch this year.

However, for our terns at Craignure, it has been slightly smoother.
SSSI Tern

The picture above is of Scallastle bay, the beach that surrounds Craignure Golf Course. This area has been designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because of the ground-nesting birds such as the two tern species we get here, arctic and common, as well as ringed plover and common gulls.

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Ringed plover

There was quite the storm here four weeks ago when, unfortunately, some of the nest sites were washed away with the tide.
A few nests on the beach closest to the golf course remained unscathed and are in a great place for us to observe them at a distance without causing disturbance.

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Although, even when walking on the golf course and away from the beach, the terns do come and say ‘hello’!
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These arctic terns tend to nest in the same area where they hatched themselves. So there is a good chance some of these birds hatched here, at least three or four years ago, as it takes that long to reach sexual maturity.  They will then return to breed once every one-to-three years, depending on their mating cycle.

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If you look at the photo above, you might be able to make out the speckled beige egg hidden amongst the pebbles below the tern.
This nest appeared to have just the one egg in but they can lay up to three. The incubation takes between 22-34 days depending on levels of disturbance.

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They share incubation duties and feed one another during this period.

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Yesterday, we were finally lucky enough to get a glimpse of the chicks. At less than a week old, they won’t be fledging for at least another two weeks.

Tern feeding chick

These chicks are so camouflaged that it was a real struggle to pick them out. Luckily, the parents have to check on them, so we just waited for them to show us where they were hiding!

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We will keep an eye on these chicks for the next couple of weeks and see how they get on. Hopefully they’ll be joined by ringed plover chicks this week!

If you want to come and see these wonderful birds, get booked onto our Craignure Golf Course coastal wildlife watch tours through the Craignure Visit Scotland iCentre.

We hope to see you soon!

Cian

P.S All photographs are taken with a 600mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter, this means the subjects are photgraphed from distance without disturbance.

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