This year we were lucky enough to be asked to photograph some of the National Trust's activities around Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. The Lough is an amazing tidal lake, open to the sea only through a narrow channel at its south end. To the north, vast mudflats are exposed at every low tide, creating an important habitat for many species of sea and wetland birds.
Ogilby Island is a low rise of ground that sits above the highest tides, and many birds nest here. Early each Summer the National Trust's wardens and volunteers count the nests of the Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls who breed here. The parents, alarmed at the intrusion, circle overhead until the human invaders have gone, so the counting takes place as quickly as possible to prevent the eggs becoming chilled. The key to quick nest counting is... pasta. Bags are filled with 100 pasta shapes, and a team of 4 or 5 nest counters walk quickly round the island, taking care not to tread on any nests or chicks, dropping a piece of pasta into each nest so that their colleagues don't count the same one twice. Afterwards, the number of empty bags, plus the number of pasta shapes missing from any part-used bags, gives the total nest count.
The National Trust surveys, monitors and protects the wildlife habitats of much of the Lough shore. For more information, visit the Trust's Strangford Lough web page
National Trust Wardens are licensed and experienced to survey wild birds without endangering their survival. Unless you are as well, please don't approach nesting birds - enjoy them from a distance.