Final updates this year, and what a successful year it was! We ended the season with 155 Common Tern nests, a total of 181 chicks banded, 91 adults banded, and at least 140 fledglings. Plus 1 American Oystercatcher nest with 1 fledgling. That’s at least 140 new Common Terns added to the population, which for a bird with a declining population is a very nice boost!
The raft has been pulled out of the water in about a week to be safely stored for the winter. The last of the tern chicks have successfully fledged and migration is just around the corner. We visited the raft last week and noticed a number of young Common Terns sitting on the side of the raft, but not a single one was banded! Just like how our fledglings that already left the raft show up on Assateague, fledglings from other colonies move around and some have found our raft. We still have some of our terns using the raft as well as the visitors.
Common Terns form large flocks at staging sites after they are done nesting, or earlier if their nests weren’t successful. Our raft Common Terns will join other Common Terns at a staging site. From these staging sites they will take off out over the Atlantic Ocean and make their way down south to the Caribbean. Some will continue on to South America. They most likely make several stopovers before reaching their final destination in October and November, where they will spend the winter sunning themselves on a beach before flocking up once again and heading back up north in April. And hopefully back to the raft!
During the course of the breeding season, Field Assistant Kim Aplanalp has taken lots of beautiful photographs to help document the activity on the raft. While Common Terns are graceful birds, she ended up with quite a few rather humorous shots, which I thought we should end the season with. A bit like the blooper reel at the end of a good film.
Dr. Archer Larned
Photos by Coastal Bird Conservation Specialist Kim Abplanalp