Spectacular Dublin Bay Tern Roosting currently under way

Published by Dave Brooks on

August 18th, 2016

Thousands of Terns have begun to gather on Sandymount Strand at dusk, as the nesting season comes to a close.

The vast majority of the marine birds to be seen in this fantastic spectacle, which will continue until mid-September, are Common Terns, joined by smaller numbers of Arctic Terns and Roseate Terns, all of whom have been breeding in various locations in Dublin bay.

Niall Tierney, BirdWatch Ireland and Dublin Port Company’s ‘Dublin Bay Birds Project’ manager, has been involved in conducting surveys on the activity of Terns at this roost for a number of years. “We do about six counts each season – we’ve done the first two already and will be out again at the end of August, if the weather is decent. We have seen huge numbers so far this season – way more than the previous three years, so it looks like our scheduled counts coincided with a peak in tern activity. This data allows us to assess the trends from year to year.”

The abundance of small fish in Dublin Bay provides ample food for this large aggregation of Terns, where they feed prior to roosting on Sandymount Strand before Dusk. The roost occasionally attracts two other kinds of Tern not usually found nesting in Dublin Bay – Sandwich Terns, whose nearest colonies are in Wexford and Down, and rare Black Terns, who breed on freshwater marshlands in Holland and Poland, showing the importance of Dublin Bay as a habitat for these birds before they undertake their various long migrations – a round trip of up to 44,000 miles in the case of the Arctic Tern, the longest known migration of any bird.

Mr. Tierney pointed out that this short-lived phenomenon gives the public a unique opportunity to view these birds and practice their identification skills. “For members of the public interested in viewing these birds, the best tidal conditions are when the tide is close to high, about an hour before sunset. Terns will always roost on the sand – never swimming on water, like gulls do. As they generally breed in out-of-reach places, such as off-shore islands, this is a great opportunity to see these fantastic birds up close.”

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If you do make it out to witness this roost, please do not disturb the birds or let dogs off their lead nearby, as they need to conserve all the energy they can before their long migration.

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.