Summary of 2023 season

A total of 125 Little Term nests were recorded over the 2023 breeding season, however due to disruption of nests throughout the season with predators and high tides, this number does not accurately capture birds using the beach or quantify the distinct nesting pairs. Flock counts combined with observations of roosting Little Terns on the shore line were averaged to be 124.24 +/- s.d. 27.36. At its highest, counts of Little Terns on the beach reached 300 (though as an outlier was not included in the statistics - this count was late in the season it wouldn’t have given an accurate depiction of this colony's size as many of them were visitors based on their colour ring). Lower numbers were counted following the destructive high tide on the 6th of July, suggesting that some little terns in Baltray colony relocated to Portrane and Kilcoole to re-lay and so the overall numbers of Little Terns in Baltray’s Colony did not remain linear throughout the season and may lead to over counting if included in breeding pairs of other colonies. The highest estimated number of breeding pairs occurred during the week of the high predator disturbance: 60 nests were labelled although many nests were lost by 19th June, 3 days later 16 more nests were located.  Assuming there was not enough time passed for those extra nests to be re-lays (10+ days recorded for Sooty Terns in C.J. Fearne,1975), there would have been a total of 76 nests on the beach that week.  With 76 breeding pairs we can say that there were at least 152 adult Little Terns at one point during the season using Baltray Beach as a nesting zone, however only 40 breeding pairs actually had nests that resulted in successfully fledged chicks this season.




Today, the final clear-up team of Tom, Martin and son Liam, Matt, Shannon and myself removed all the remaining posts, electric fences, signboards and various other bits and bobs from the beach and placed in store! 4 hours in hot sun! Great team as usual. THanks to all who had done their bit in the dismantling earlier in the last week or so. It's such a pleasure to be involved with so committed voluntary efforts in a brilliant project.I🛠️🌅⛱️⛈️⛅🦊🌌

I expect to be retiring our current over used Warden HQ caravan in the coming weeks and hope to purchase a fresh one for next season and beyond. Meanwhile there is work to be done in planning this year's post season gathering, final designs on new signage, reviewing this year's wardening and how we might improve things.

I'll post further to alert you all for input!

D ;-)


Final Update 2023

My Final update everyone 😢 happy and sad emotions today but with the season now coming to a close I’m happy to announce the total chick count to be at 80 chicks 🐥. It was a harsh enough season for the Little Terns with difficult weather, tides and predators, but thanks to the day wardens, night wardens and dedicated group of volunteers together we've kept them up and flying so well done everyone, what a team! I've really enjoyed the experience and thank you everyone for being so welcoming and kind!



Seventy-eight chicks and counting

This week’s update: up to 78 chicks and counting! 🐥 We are onto our final few chicks now and 8 eggs to go (we found some nests the end of last week that were quite hidden). 

In terms of Avian Flu: A few dead Common Terns have been found here no Little Terns yet, from their rings looks like they are from Rockabill.  Many Little Tern fledglings can be seen on the beach still but many have also at this stage moved on.


Juvenile cuckoos

At least two juvenile cuckoos were spotted along the fencing near the second gate yesterday. They will probably hag around for a few days in the general area.


Fifteen more chicks

Update: 15 more chicks since last week bringing us up to 72 chicks! 5 of those chicks are from eggs that we had found in the seaweed after high tide and placed in makeshift nests further back, and 2 are from a nest we moved back to protect from high tides so we are very happy with the success from our efforts on the 7th of July. Only 6 nests with 9 eggs to go now! 🪺. Here is a photo (taken through the telescope and under NPWS Licensing) of a chick keeping warm under its parent while still having a peak at the outside world.



Twelve New Chicks

Hey all,

This weeks update: 12 new chicks this week. The estimated chick/fledging count is 57. This week, fledglings have been recorded out on the beach, observed flying and learning to feed for themselves. 18 fledglings were observed out on the beach (3 of which were ringed so not our fledglings). Twenty more eggs in nests (plus wildcard nests that were relocated still to be determined)

And keep eyes peeled for a Kestrel spotted multiple times this week. It hung around for the day today, on and off, catching prey in further dunes and soared above the pens three times. The terns are doing their best to agitate it.


PS: No sign of bird flu at our site yet but its decimating most other terns sites in Ireland, particularly Rockabill and Kilkoole.


Wind and rain...and dogs

News from Nina from last Saturday: 

Hi all,

So to start off with some good news, we found a new nest with 2 eggs and also found 2 new chicks (that are a nice good distance from the tide 👍) today. In terms of what we lost to the tide and harsh weather early this morning: 24 nests (containing 47 eggs) are lost, However, 8 nests’ eggs were found in the seaweed and relocated up a bit from the tide and I did spot one or two of them sitting on the nest today so you never know🤞. Unfortunately 2 poor very young chicks didn’t survive the night/morning.  Remaining are 36 nests (15 of the nests have 25 eggs and the rest have chicks, estimating to still have 46 as we lost two and gained two, and the rest were plenty old enough to be up and running and were spotted getting fed and hiding in the grass). Here’s hoping for a lower or less damaging tide tonight.

On foot of this a huge effort was made to reset the fencing and this was achieved over Sunday/Monday. So we are getting back on track, though inclement weather forecast to continue.

That would be bad enough but we have renewed problems with dog walkers. Today a problem with a golden/reddish cocker spaniel whose owner refused to put the dog on a leash and ran hm up and down the beach in and out of the pens, including the very exposed northern pen. Luckily dog didn't kill anything but pure luck!

The dog owner should be aware that it is an offence to disturb the nesting area of any wild bird, but in particular annex ! species such as little terns. The county ranger has been notified.


July Update

Hi all, Nina again back with a weekly update! We have more chicks and more nests. Up to 46 Little tern chicks are hatched now and 70 eggs still laid/incubating. New nests are still popping up with 15 new nests found since this time last week. Ten nests are located in front of the pens and one had a successful relocation slightly further back to protect it from high tides, and the little tern and ringed plover nests in Maurice's northern pen and still hanging on despite the odds. As i am currently still in the process of getting a license to take a photo of chicks an eggs on site, enjoy this illustration of them credit to my brother Euan Rogerson.



100th Nest!

Hi all, New nests and more hatched chicks from the past week to report! We marked the 100th nest this week (we don’t have 100 nesting on the beach currently, but over 100 nest with eggs have been marked and logged on the beach this season so far). We are now up to 50 nests, 33 chicks and 61 eggs. Also some ringed plover and skylark chicks were spotted this week. Pen 2 is now our busiest with 11 little tern nests and 2 plover nests.




Feeling more cheerful, and cautiously optimistic this week! Obviously still feeling the loss of many nests last week and the pens were feeling that bit quieter but we have found 8 new nests in the last 2 days, and the chicks have arrived right on time to liven things up! Current numbers are now up to 34 nests, 52 Eggs and 13 Chicks🐥 Now, with the chicks soon to be running around the beach we have made a sign,  here’s hoping people will read and follow it 🤞  - Nina and Brónagh


First Chicks

Nina reported the first chicks to hatch this season on Monday and we can expect many more in coming days. This is a critical time for little terns. For the first week or so the chicks are extremely vulnerable to predation, but also to bad weather, wind blown sand, high tides and all the rest. Once they get mobile they have a better chance. typically it will take about 20 days to fledge.

All help with wardening very welcome!



Lost Nests

This week’s update might sound grim, but I am still optimistic and determined to get as many fledglings as we can flying out of Baltray into the big ould world. Since the last full beach count last Friday we have experienced waves of nest losses From human/dog activity effecting the northern make-shift pen, to (most probably) crows getting the nest in the most southernly pen, 0.

 fox was recorded in Pen 6 this week after which, myself and Brónagh checked the damage in Pen 6 and 7 and were saddened but relieved that only 2 tern nest had been emptied. However, today - while doing the sweep count- we found prints in and around pen 6, 7 and 8 with them almost being entirely cleared out.

Our busiest Pen (Pen 3) was discovered on Thursday morning to be strangely quiet and we found 12 out of 14 nests were gone  -unknown as to the cause, may be the same as above or somethings else. No  indication/noises were made by the terns.

So with all that: total nests and egg counts are on the low side now, we are now down to 24 nests and 53 eggs but with some positive news, we are still finding new nests all the time with 4 new nests found today and an oystercatcher nest with 3 eggs.

Also, as a side note, Avian Flu has been recorded at Kilcoole in Little Terns so we may wanna keep a close eye on the Little Terns here in Baltray



Least Tern is back

A least tern was seen and heard over the weekend  at Baltray by Ger Murray. This is undoubtedly a bird returning for the third year, originally found at Portraine by Niall Keogh. 


59 Nests So Far!

Hey all, Nina here, back again with a Little Tern update. Big thanks to Brónagh for her help with a sweep count of the pens (and outside) on Friday. We are now up to 59 Nests and 149 eggs!

We have 3 nests with 1 egg, 22 nests with 2 eggs and 34 nests with 3 eggs! (With pen 3 really being where most of the action is, with 36 eggs in that pen alone!)

Sadly 4 Nests have been lost to bird predation and harsh wind, plus high tides 😢

More birds got ringed today: 8 Terns and 2 Ringed Plovers.

And hopefully in my next update there might be some chicks!🐣🐣



Update, 1st week of June

Hi all,

Nina here, it’s been a busy first few days! It’s been great getting to know the area and meet you all under such sunny and exciting conditions.

Little Tern update: 11 Terns and 2 Ringed Plovers ringed on the beach yesterday (with Graham and Jan). Rough estimate of Little Tern numbers are 100+ . We are up to 37 nests and 72 eggs today with the looks of more on the way 🤞(and more nests spotted by Maurice outside the pens to the north) Looking forward to spending this season with you!



Welcome Nina!

Pictures is Nina Rogerson with Matt on the early morning shift at Baltray.

We now have several marked nests and over 60 adults flying around. A few pairs have set up nest on a small are of exposed shingle tot eh north of the site, that may require fencing.


Eight Nests And Counting

North pens (5,6,7,8,9) swept today. 8 nests 4 singles, 4 doubles! 2 adults trapped and 1 adult (a first for Baltray) fresh Ringed. Second was hatched in Kilcoole and retrapped in Wales!  Thanks to Jan Rod and Tom (2) Kavanagh (Portrane) for the expertise and patience along with Aquilla, and Amber who assisted with biometrics!

Next week :

We welcome Nina Rogerson on the 1st of June as Warden for 2023.

She'll be resident in our recently acquired caravan. Official introductions will be made as she arrives. Good to see we're starting with some nests! One bum note, 2 grey crow are tormenting the nester, so all wardens are requested to concentrate on leg work to make life as uncomfortable as possible at all times.... Roll on the progress. 😁😄



First nest!

Yesterday (27th May) we had the first confirmed marked little tern nest at Baltray. This is a few days later than pervious years but with more than 60 adults flying around and several other pairs prospecting, things are looking good. The spell of fine weather has been a help, and in particular the absence of dredging activity. If of interest you can track the dredging activity online at The two dredgers are the Sospan Dau and the Argus, both suction dredgers. The previous one, the Hebble Sands, sank at dock in Drogheda due to poor maintenance, releasing fuel and other contaminants, and is still there. there are also a few other terns species hanging around, common and roseate terns mainly, along with a small flock of summer dunlins and sanderlings....



Great progress with the fencing over the last week with pretty much all fencing up now, and the electric fence installed and live.

n terms of birds, we have 30 to 40 little terns visiting the site at the moment, with some signs of courtship and nest prospection. Typically courtship is kicked off when a male bird overflies the colony with a fish, usually a sand eel. This triggers a lot of calling and chasing. Finally the male offers the sand eel to a female and if she accepts, things look good. This may be followed by a lot of wing display as pair bonding proceeds. We have learned over the years that the availability of sand eels at this time of year is crucial to a successful season. If birds cant find prey they are likely to move to another site, perhaps Kikoole or Groniant.



Bronagh got a good introduction to the terns this morning as they are there in big numbers. If you can pop down over the next few days, you too will be surprised! Looks like all hands on deck from now on!🤞🤞Welcome Bronagh!



After the Storm

last weeks high tide did quite a lot of damage to the outer fencing, now thankfully repaired - well done everyone!

Over last weekend  we had 72 little terns flying over the site, fishing at the mouth of the Boyne, and generally setting up to breed. These have now mostly gone with just 16 birds persisting. This is a familiar pattern as the birds check out the different sites before deciding where to nest. The exact basis of this decision-making is only partly understood but a critical element is availability of abundant sand eels. We have noted is past years when breeding has all but failed, that the initial arrival of birds failed to find fish. If no fish there can be no present giving, no courtship....we have seen a co-relation between availability of fish and intensity of dredging activities in past years....


High Water

The recent high tides coupled with an easterly has damaged the first round of fencing. It would appear that the current configuration of the beach, which changes every season, is not ideal for nesting, in that there is upper ridge, as we have had for the last few years. Repairs are underway.



Up to 50 little terns have been seen around the mouth of the Boyne yesterday after an anxious wait. A large cohort of at lease 35 arrived in Kilcoole last week. No word yet from Groniant, the north Wales colony ( or from the Isle of Man. An interesting color ringing scheme running for the last few years has revealed interesting information about how little terns move around from colony to colony especially around the Irish sea. The basis of this decision making is of ongoing interest in terms of site management :


Fencing Work

The beach configuration this year looks favorable.


Fencing work progressing

Great progress with the fencing at Baltray with most pens now complete.


New Season 2023

Work has started on erecting the fencing at Baltray in anticipation of the return of the little terns. We know that many terns species were affected by bird flu this winter and spring, but are hopeful that the little terns, who tend to stick together more than other terns species, will get through. The good news is that a small number has already arrived at Kilkoole. Anybody wishing to volunteer for this particularly busy part of the season should contact Dominic Hartigan at


Scholars Volunteer Dinner 2022

A great night was had by all at Scholars in Drogheda to celebrate another very successful year at Baltray. And a huge thanks to everyone who helped! Aine's knitted little terns made the night! See gallery for a few photos.


Last Four Chicks

I have been monitoring our last 4 chicks 🐥 for the last couple of weeks, romantic worrier, I like things to be seen through, that is just me. After all the efforts from all of us I had to make sure. Today, and to paraphrase Georges Gershwin’s legendary lyrics, I saw our last 4 chicks fly, training flying, which involves the adults carrying fish; it was amazing. I will be down in the morning. I added a couple of pictures of the slight few days a difference can make. What an amazing adventure! Franck


Last Chicks

Hi all, I hope you are well! Very little activity today with one young flying chick outside pen 2 and after an hour scanning the sight between 7 and 5, I am happy to report that our latest chicks (4) are being well fed and looked after. It started to rain at 11:30 and the clouds were a bit stationary but before that, I spotted our peregrine fella on the strand at low tide. The very few terns left gave it hell and a grey crow looking for bits got it too; they really don’t like them! I will be around for the next couple of days and probably next week for tidying up 🧹. I will leave you with some ( poor) pictures of our peregrine. Have a nice evening!