We found our first confirmed nest on Ship Island on Monday evening. The nest contained one egg at the time, but by Tuesday morning another egg was laid.
As you can (hopefully) see, Terns don’t build much of a nest – it’s called a scrape for a reason! Their eggs are also very well camouflaged, so it can be difficult to spot them from up in a blind 10 feet in the air. Luckily, we were tipped off when this particular tern chose to stay put when the rest of the colony had taken off as part of a behavior known as dreading. After a few minutes of observation, the tern also stood up and changed position, revealing the egg.
In addition to being our first nest of the season, this nest is exciting for another reason: one of the parents is a banded bird. We’ve seen several banded terns along the beach, but we haven’t been able to read the identifying numbers on the band. Now that we know where this particular bird is nesting, we’ve place a stake that can serve as a perch near the nest. With any luck, the banded tern will stand there long enough for us to read the numbers off the band.
We’ll be on the lookout for a third egg sometime today, as the usual clutch size
for a Common Tern is 2-3 eggs. These eggs will be incubated for a little over 3 weeks before chicks start to hatch.
Yesterday we also took a tour of the colony to look for more nests, and we were in luck: we found three m
ore. In a few weeks, we might have as many as 150, but four is pretty exciting right now!
Finally, I’ll share with you a photo of Ship’s fantastic new cabin: