Black Terns Return!

Project: Rome Pond Wildlife Area
County: Waukesha
Project Start Date: 05/15/2023
Project End Date: 05/27/2023

By Mike Alaimo, Lead AWA volunteer.
All photos courtesy Mike Alaimo unless otherwise noted.

In an update our Waukesha Chapter’s black tern nesting project, we’re excited to share an early update on this year’s nesting platform project being done on WWA’s Adopt A Wildlife Area (AWA) project on Rome Pond Wildlife Area.

On the evening of May 15th I deployed twelve nesting platforms on Rome Pond. At first, I did not see terns, but then I found eight already staking claim on the raised peat.  This is where they concentrated last year, so I laced in four platforms in this area and before I left, they were already using the perch poles.

Nesting platforms and perch poles placed at Rome Pond May 15, 2023

I took a recon out on Rome Pond on May 27th.  With our current dry spell, water levels were coming down, exposing more peat that is drying.  This equals more natural nesting sites and has resulted in zero use of the platforms this year.  However, I did catch two pairs checking out two platforms, so there is hope that late arrivals will attempt nesting on them.  I will continue to monitor.  The irony is that I have pairs nesting within ten feet of platforms.  Hence, the picture of the terns laughing at my disappointment.

Success might be defined this year by a very encouraging discovery.  While sitting in my boat close to the largest colony, I did observe a black tern with a slightly dropped leg.  This odd behavior is due to the geolocator.  After taking numerous leg shots and reviewing them at home this afternoon, we have a eureka moment.  A banded black tern from either 2021 or 2022 has returned and is actively tending an egg!

A Tern spotted on Rome Pond in May 2023 wearing one of the leg bands from a prior year’s banding project on the site!

More to come, as we will attempt to hopefully trap this bird but I was extremely excited about finding this needle in a hay stack.  The challenge is now is trying to recapture this bird to extract the geolocator. Stay tuned…

A banded Tern on Rome Pond May 27, 2023