Friday, June 1, 2012

Least Terns nesting across Connecticut

It always feels like the Least Tern and Common Tern breeding cycle occurs unbelievably rapidly. They arrive in the state in the first week of May and by the end of the month, you can spot nests in colonies on some of our sandy beaches. May flies by to those who devote a great deal of time in the field as you spend hundreds of hours outside chasing down birds, butterflies, dragonflies, turtles, snakes, and much more. These are some of my favorite weeks of the year, and between being that busy and enjoying so many sights and sounds, those eggs appear seemingly as soon as the birds do.

Normally we do not want to be actually seeing the eggs since that will be a disturbance to the Least Terns who have enough to cope with on some of our busiest beaches, but here is a distant shot of some eggs I wanted to confirm as the second nest of the year in the state for our Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds project.

This was on Long Beach in Stratford, a day after the first nest was seen on Morse Point in West Haven. Least Terns will dive bomb you, defecate on you, and actually physically strike you if you venture too close to their nesting colony or linger in the area for too long. If you see them start any of these attacks, you should immediately move away from the area, knowing that they are agitated and this is taking needed energy from them. They only have so much time to catch fish for themselves, incubate eggs, and defend their nest against predators like crows, gulls, raccoons, foxes, feral cats, and more. Adding constant human interaction to the mix means they are less likely to succeed.

Please also keep in mind that both Least Tern and Common Tern are state-listed species, Least being CT-ESA Threatened and Common CT-ESA Special Concern. High tides are often the biggest threat both terns face as they wash all of the eggs out to sea, and we have some very high ones coming up on June 3. We will be monitoring the situation across the state to see how they, American Oystercatcher, and some Piping Plover nests and eggs handle the rising water. Some will not make it through to next week.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

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