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FYI - NOT good news. 
Least Tern Barge Riverlands MBS, St. Charles co.

Charlene Malone
St. Louis co.

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Giammaria, Vincent MVS" 
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 5:19 PM
Subject: Least Tern Barge Update


Hello All,

I have received several inquiries regarding the status of the least
tern barges.  As of July 8th, there were an estimated 46 least terns, 19
chicks, and several nests with eggs.  We were scheduled for a banding trip
July 15th with volunteers and USACE employees.  
However, on July 9th, a single great blue heron landed on the barges
and proceeded to eat a young chick.  This occurred during my monitoring
period.  I saw the great blue heron fly out to the barges and land just under
the bird guard netting.  The heron roamed the barge and even caught a fish
and ate it.  The adult least terns hovered above, squawking and attempting to
dive at the heron, but they never made contact and failed in deterring the
heron off the barges.  The heron stumbled upon a hiding chick and proceeded
to eat it.  While preparing to kayak out to the barges to scare off the
heron, the heron took off and was not seen for several hours.  
Over the next few days, the majority of the colony had abandoned the
site, leaving 8 adult least terns on Saturday, July 10th (most likely the
parents of remaining chicks).  The heron was again present on the barges on
July 10th and USACE employees kayaked out to the site, scaring off the heron.
Only one least tern chick was found on the barges. On July 12th and the days
following, no least terns were seen in the area and the site was deemed
abandoned. USACE employees went out by boat to the habitat on July 15th and
saw no chicks.  
We have been in contact with partners from IDNR and INHS deciding on
the most appropriate course of action.  In light of this predation event,
through coordination with our partners we have installed five foot metal-wire
fencing around both barges.  In addition, we have added bird guard lattice
over the remaining open areas, covering the entire habitat.  Both barges have
been cleared of vegetation and the conspecific attraction equipment (decoys
and call box) has been left in place.  It is the hope that this will attract
least terns back to the area later in the season.
One least tern has already been sighted in the area on July 21st, and
several more may be on their way due to the rising river elevations.  Least
terns can lay up to three clutches in a season, and it may not be too late to
see some nesting pairs appear on the barges.  While this event is
unfortunate, we have high hopes that it will lead to improved management
strategies and the project will host many more years of success.  

Vincent Giammaria
Student Intern
US Army Corps of Engineers
Rivers Project Office
301 Riverlands Way
West Alton, MO 63386

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