[CT Birds] Terns, perhaps an important year.

Comins, Patrick via CTBirds ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org
Wed Jun 4 10:42:39 EDT 2014

I'm suspecting it is going to be a very busy, albeit delayed, nesting season for terns this year.  I have a hypothesis that there is a correlation between the late winter plankton blooms and baitfish availability later in the season.  If that is the case, it could be a banner year for baitfish and thus terns.

The trick is that with the habitat effects of Sandy, things will be shaken up a bit.  Old nesting areas (like Cockene) have been eroded, but there is a lot of new habitat out there.  Unfortunately, a lot of it is in areas that are more likely to be susceptible to human disturbance.   Also, there may be some areas that are going to have big concentrations.  If Great Gull is a guide, things are at least one week behind schedule and we don't yet know where the jackpot areas will be for Least Terns.

The biology of these birds is such that these post-storm periods are critical to their long-term population biology.  Again, a hypothesis of mine is that these birds are long-lived for a reason.  They mostly cruise through the lean times in hopes that they get a storm event and banner food year to be able to produce a bumper crop of fledglings at least a few times within their productive breeding years.   This makes years like this quite important to them.  We had the habitat improvements starting last year, but there appear to have been food shortages.  This year may be their critical year if food is available and the beaches are still scoured from the storms.

This is a long way of asking you a couple of things

1.       If you note nesting activity of Least Terns, Common Terns or things like skimmers in areas that aren't already stringed off, please let us know ctwaterbirds at gmail.com<mailto:ctwaterbirds at gmail.com>

2.       Please try not to add to the disturbance levels through your birding activities.  Terns are even more susceptible to human disturbance than are plovers.   Please try to give these birds some space while in the course of your birding activities.  Remember that non-birders will also see where birders are going and figure that if birders are somewhere then it must be OK to go there without worry of disturbing birds.

3.       A bonus, maybe consider becoming an official monitor for the Audubon Alliance efforts.  You can find out more through the above email address.   We have quite a bit less staff capacity this year and can use all the help we can get.

Hopefully the colonies will be robust and bursting with fledglings by the time shorebird season rolls around, but this is the critical time for them.  We also have to keep our fingers crossed with regard to tides in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your help!


PS I may be sending a follow up message later about the need for some help with the annual Piping Plover survey where all historic nesting areas need to be checked for signs of nesting activity.  As I mentioned, we are quite a bit short-handed this year.

Patrick M. Comins
Director of Bird Conservation
President, Friends of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Audubon Connecticut
185 East Flat Hill Road
Southbury, CT 06488

Phone: (203)264-5098 x308
Fax: (203)264-6332

pcomins at audubon.org<mailto:pcomins at audubon.org>
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