It's been a week of mass hatching, with almost all of the first nest attempts now turned from smooth eggs, into fluffy, helpless bundles. Miraculously, the bad weather last week didn't cause too many issues, other than a few buried nests. Now the weather has improved, just in time! Right on cue though, the Kestrel is getting seen more often. They are not stupid and will be able to detect the chicks from quite a distance. All eyes will be on the lookout for any Kestrel advances in the coming few weeks.
A rather special Little Tern sporting Yellow ZBA colour-ring has been recorded tending 3 eggs. This male bird was originally ringed as a chick by Professor David Norman of the Merseyside Ringing Group in 1993 before having a colour-ring added in 2018, also by David, when it set a new world record for longevity. It is now back for its 26th year, still making it the oldest known Little Tern in the world, ever. A nice little coincidence, it was refound on father's day of all days. We are so pleased to have this bird back. It has made looking through hours of footage from nest cameras by students and volunteers from the tern group so very worthwhile!
The update from today's (29/05) clutch count was that there are now 148 nests and 393 eggs. We are nearly at the peak and it is only eight days since the first nest was found. The average clutch size is also looking healthy at 2.67, the second highest on record! With this many nests to care for if you feel like spending a few hours down at the colony please come down and help keep watch over this ever-growing population. Now's a great time to see them with constant bird activity around the beach.
We are hoping numbers rise this year thanks to productive breeding over the last few seasons and high numbers of fledglings being produced. Last year's pair total was 171, so things are looking promising for an even higher total this year. Fingers and toes crossed.
The tern group attended the RSPB Conwy Bioblitz last weekend which went down well. Thanks to everyone who came and chatted about Little Terns, we even had a few new people join the group, welcome to you all! The group will also be attending the Nant Clwyd-y-dre Nature Day at Ruthin on Saturday June 8th so if you are in the area please do pop in! There will be a multitude of conservation organisations there including Cofnod, BTO, Denbighshire Countryside Services and the Clwydian AONB team. The grounds of Nant Clwyd-y-dre are beautiful and deserving of a wander around in their own right.
With the site now fully installed and the wardens starting, it is exciting to see so many Little Terns back in the area. In the glorious weather over the weekend 138 adults were counted roosting on the beach, flying over the mirror-like seas and around the breeding pens. Courtship has been observed with some scraping following. Look out for the courtship flights in which the pair fly closely in tandem in an impressive arc through the sky. Occasionally they forget people are watching and fly right past, transfixed on each other!
With the onset of wardening, this is a great time to get involved, at the start of the season. Any members of the group and public are invited to assist the wardens with their duties. Any help is gratefully received and will continue to support this, the last (and therefore most important!) colony in Wales.
It was a busy week for those that helped put up the fencing and we are pleased to say it has all gone up in time. A big thanks to everyone who helped, it literally couldn't be done without your support. This really was a joint effort between Denbighshire Countryside Services, the North Wales Little Tern Group, the RSPB, Bangor University students and more. With this marvelous effort, more pens were put up than ever, covering as much suitable habitat as possible. We really have given the terns the best chance.
Whilst most of the major work has been done there is a little fine-tuning still underway to make the pens and structures shipshape for the season ahead, so if you would like to help out come down to the site from 10am onwards on Weds (8th) or Thurs (9th) this week.
Little Terns have been regularly seen with up to 40 present over high tide. They are not always around at the moment as there are no nests but given some time they can still be seen over the sea or around the shoreline.
In case you missed it, here's the link to the episode that includes showing the NWLTG at work back in 2018 with Derek the Weatherman - Click here
The 2019 season is just around the corner now and the seasonal posts for wardens have been published. We are also very pleased to see that there will be an engagement officer working on the project to help people enjoy the birds more and to aid the wardens. If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in working to help conserve this rare and charming species then please visit the Denbighshire County Council jobs page to find out more at the link below.
The count-down timer on the home page now reveals only 37 days till the Little Terns are likely to start nesting. Time we got a move on with setting up the site!
On the 15th and 16th the perimeter line will be going up at Gronant. Please come down to the beach for 10am if you can help out. Although post-knocking is a physical job there are a range of less physical roles to get involved with including nails on posts to stop Crows perching, signs and putting on the rope. Everyone is welcome.
Then on the week of the 29th April we will be putting up the pens, visitor center and hide. Again, from 10am each day we will be down on the beach. If you can come along it will be a great boost to the process of installing the protective fencing as part of a fun bunch of volunteers.
The North Wales Little Tern Group is very pleased to announce that long-time supporter of Little Tern conservation and TV presenter @IoloWilliams2 has become patron for the group. Many thanks Iolo! See the full statement below.
We never get to see Little Terns during the winter period in the UK, as they've all gone on their holibobs to seek a perpetual summer. They undergo a moult on migration and wintering grounds which sees them look quite different for much of this time. A recent trip to Thailand provided an opportunity to study the birds in this alternate plumage, at a site called Pak Thale. Now the main reason people visit this site, a set of salt-pans fronting on to the Bay of Bangkok, is to see the very rare and unique Spoon-billed Sandpiper (imagine a Dunlin with a kitchen utensil for a beak!) but I got slightly distracted by the presence of a whopping 1200 Little Terns roosting on the bunds. Thankfully a few flew closer and allowed photographs to be taken.
The main differences were in the beak, legs and head-pattern. The beak was completely black (mostly yellow in summer), the legs were dull orange (bright orange in summer) and the black on the head was restricted to a mask which stretched from the eyes to the back of the head with the rest of the cap white (all black in summer). These features combined make the birds look quite different to what we are used to seeing at Gronant and indeed initially it took me a moment to realise these were in fact Little Terns, the light-bulb eventually went off in my head due to them being tiny!
We are pleased to announce that since launching the programme in September we have had a total of 10 trackers sponsored which will go a long way to getting the project off the ground. Along with grant funding from The Seabird Group and the Merseyside Ringing Group we are hopeful of getting plenty more birds tracked next year!
In a flurry of other news, we received some information back on a Gronant colour-ringed bird - a 2-year-old, XLB, was seen at Hayling Island on 30/07. A rare case of one of our birds being spotted elsewhere. Interestingly it wasn't seen at Gronant this summer so may have bred on the south coast...
Tony Waller, the group's meetings secretary, gave a talk to the Colwyn Bay rotary club on 19/11 about the Little Terns at Gronant and the efforts to support them. It was good to tell a new audience about the work done to protect the terns.
A talk on the evening of 22/11 at Prestatyn Cricket Club resulted in £100 of donations to the group which we are very grateful for. It was a well-attended talk given by a Professor at Bangor University called Tom Rippeth and was on the topic of climate change which is of particular interest to us at the Little Tern Group as rises in sea level and more frequent storms threaten the safety of the nesting birds.
Finally, there was a national conference held in Norwich a few weeks back to mark the end of the EU LIFE+ project which has given so much assistance to colonies around the UK, including the Gronant colony, managed by Denbighshire Countryside Services (DCS). Little Tern stalwart, Adrian Hibbert, delivered a fantastic speech about the successes achieved at Gronant over the last 5 years which have included becoming the largest colony in the UK in 2017 and the launch and rapid growth of North Wales Little Tern Group. It is with sadness that Adrian has moved on from DCS but will remain chairman of the group and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
A novel opportunity has arisen for supporters of Little Terns to be part of a ground-breaking study to track the bird's migration down to Africa and back. The technology has recently become miniaturised enough to apply trackers to the legs of the terns. The trackers now weigh less than a gram!
We are raising funds to support the purchase of more tracking devices and thereby increase the amount that is learnt about where the birds go when not in the UK through a sponsorship programme. This project is in association with the Merseyside Ringing Group (who will take the lead in attaching the devices), Denbighshire Countryside Services and the Seabird Group.
A bit of background for why we are doing this - The birds are only in the UK for 4 months of the year, where they are well protected. Outside of this time no one really knows what threats they face, so learning where they go is the first and most important step to finding more about the issues they face when away from the UK.
This will be the first time tracking of Little Terns has been conducted in Western Europe. For £100 you can sponsor a tag and get information back when it is found and also the right to name the bird in question. Should your bird not return you will be offered a full set of information from another bird. For £50 you can part sponsor a bird and receive the same information on your bird but only be able to part name the bird (it will have a double-barrelled name!).
For further information please download the file below and register your interest at the e-mail address provided in the file.
The following is from facebook following the end of season event, a run-down of what went on!
"Finally found time to check in again to let you know the NWLTG AGM was well attended on Friday, with 28 members in all. Thank you everyone for making the effort to be there. It was an interesting meeting, with a lots of enthusiasm, as to be expected! ;) Main topics, 'life after Life +' and the 'loss' of the Life+ Officer post and fundraising options. We gained 5 new members too!
The End of Season event also went well, with more folk coming along. This year's three wardens Sasha T, Frances Mac and Marie D talked about the events of the season, though Marie didn't mention her 'shark attack'! ;) Even when you've been 'following' events throughout the year it's good to hear it all in chronological order as a presentation.
Henry C (Life+ Public Engagement Officer) spoke about colour ringing and re-sightings. Lots of interesting findings this year, as he managed to devote a lot of hours to this activity (as did Jack S our previous Life+ Officer). Having GoPro cameras on nests was beneficial in this aspect too. Let's hope all the effort can be reciprocated in the future, to improve our understanding of these wee birds.
Professor David Norman (Bird Ringer extraordinaire!) talked about the planned Gronant Little Tern Tracking Project, and how the tracking worked, which should also enhance our knowledge about Little Terns. We are hoping to commence Geolocator tracking next year.
Patrick K (Treasurer) spoke about the achievements of the group this year, and mentioned our Geolocator sponsorship programme, and we gained our very first Geolocator sponsor! Thank you Brian I!
Sue Rendell-Reid (Manager of the Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project) spoke about the project. It's amazing the diversity of 'obstacles' affecting the birds up and down the country - from different types of predation to coastal erosion. It's good to know successful tactical information is shared between the colonies.
Photo of the new Little Tern mural by Sasha T (image courtesy of @penrhynbirder)
Sash T 'unveiled' her Little Tern mural which you will see on the side of the Visitor Centre next year. Thank you very much Sasha, a brilliant achievement! The time and effort you put into this is much appreciated and I'm sure the mural will be enjoyed by the visitors to Gronant for years to come!
Sadly our much anticipated surprise 'scoop' didn't go according to plan (does any meeting ever go smoothly?) and the voice-over, by Iolo Williams, and recorded by Marie D, was a silent affair. :( I spoke to him last night (at Theatr Colwyn) and he said he'd heard the meeting was a "very quiet do"! I thought he knew about the 'malfunction' but he went on to say "no dancing on the tables" etc. Don't know who told him that, lol! Anyway, all is not lost and we are hoping to find a way to share the voice-over with members at a future date.
I wanted to recognize the fact that it was the first season that we'd ever had three female wardens, and presented them each with a bouquet of flowers, in a vase, as a memento. I didn't manage to find vases with Little Terns etched onto them, but they did have flowers and Dragonflies! ;) Henry C received a Birds of Thailand book (he's off there on holiday soon) to recognize the fact he's the last EU Life+ officer. :( Adrian H received a framed photo of a Little Tern, to remind him of his years' as a 'Countryside Range' with DCS. He's going to continue as Chairman of the group though, thank goodness! :)
So that's my summary of the evening! :) Thanks to everyone that attended the AGM and the End of Season event. I hope you all enjoyed the evening, as much I did."
The other news is that the video mentioned above has now been completed and is on view on the homepage! That's all for this season but check in occasionally as there may be the odd update on progress towards next year.