Last week, our long-standing ringer, Professor David Norman, and his team visited Gronant to ring some adult birds. Efforts have been stepped up this season to ring more adults and hopefully catch a few that were ringed as chicks to find out their age whilst adding colour-rings to all caught birds so we can re-sight them in the field without the need to catch them again. The first we caught in the session transpired to be something a bit little special! See below:
In other news, we are happy to announce plenty of birds are re-laying after losing their nests in the storm on June 14th. We are up to 50 new nests in the last few days with more coming every day. This will really extend our season and give longer to enjoy and study the birds. If these nests can hatch and go on to fledge they still have the possibility of a good breeding season, but things really need to go their way this time as there's no time for a third attempt. Onwards and upwards.
Everything was going well at Gronant. Too well? Could it last? The photo below shows the idyllic scenes around the colony in the days before the month's Spring tides with birds coming and going from the colony, and for a lucky few, tending their chicks.
The birds can cope with high tides but add on a one meter storm surge plus gale-force, onshore winds and you have a recipe for disaster. Storm Hector delivered the aforementioned conditions on Thursday 14th June and even an hour before high tide the waves were crashing in to the pens. By high tide itself the damage had been done Water washed over the crest of the pens and over the other side. We were frantically moving nests but couldn't move them any higher. All we could do was stare, disbelievingly. It was hard to watch.
After the tide receded the birds searched for nests and eggs but many were left walking around, confused. In the following days we took account of what had been lost and what little remained. There had been 174 active nests before the storm. 124 or so were lost and it could have been more if it were not for moving many of the remaining nests.
There was a lot of work to do to repair fencing and we are really grateful to all the people who answered the call for assistance. Thanks to the wonderful turnout, by the end of Sunday all the fencing was back up. A sincere thanks to everyone who came, you made a real difference allowing us to get the site back up with the minimum amount of disturbance to the birds. With a bit of fine-tuning this week the site should be back in full working order, ready for any re-laying attempts. All signs are good for this with birds displaying and making scrapes already. Watch this space... In the mean time, many of the nests that survived have gone on to hatch and we are getting great views of the chicks from the hide.
Assuming we get re-lays this will extend the season significantly and means we get to enjoy the birds for a bit longer! It's never dull down at Gronant so if you have not yet been this summer now is a good time.
It hardly feels like a year since the birds were having to deal with exceptionally high tides but this threat has come around again. The tides this June could get up to 9.8m with the first real bad weather of the season forecast to coincide at the same time pushing the crashing waves higher up the beach. From Thursday to Saturday (14-16th) there will be debris to clear from fencing after each high tide. If you are free and can help we will be clearing this from 2pm onwards each day, meet down at the visitor center. With plenty of hands we can make light work of the seaweed and rubbish that gets caught up in the fencing and reduces it's ability to carry electricity.
On a positive note we have smashed the previous record for pairs at Gronant and we are now up to 170 as of today (12th June) with a few more still displaying on the beach.
We are at peak Little Tern! The season is now at it's zenith at Gronant with most of the pairs incubating eggs. At times there have been up to 370 Little Terns, although counting them is an art-form when they are whizzing around. Peregrines are causing daily panics for the birds but to our knowledge there have not been any depredations yet.
It has been great to see so many people visiting and enjoying the terns this season. If you have not been yet this year, head down to the visitor center and the wardens will show you birds sat on the nest. (Directions on the 'Gronant Dunes' page).
This Saturday the North Wales Little Tern Group will be down at Nantclwyd y Dre, Ruthin for the Nature Day being held there. If you are near please pop in and we can answer any questions you may have or sign up to join the group. There will be many wildlife groups present and you can join in with a 'bioblitz'; recording as many species as possible in the day. Entry £2. See poster below for more details.
It seemed to take forever but the first Little Tern eggs were spotted on the 20th May (first egg date 19th). This is 4 days later than last year. The terns had been back a month and showing a lot of interest in the breeding pens. We think although the birds were ready to lay their eggs earlier, in the nice weather, they were waiting for the high spring tides to pass, very sensible of them! It's all go now and since the first nest was spotted we are already up to 20 active nests and many more to come. If you have not been down to see the terns yet this season now is a good time with so much activity to be seen.
After a week of finishing touches and getting the pens electrified we are now ready for Little Terns to start nesting. Numbers of terns peaked at 120 on the bank holiday Monday (11/05) but became harder to see after that as the weather had been a bit cold. With the warmer weather this coming week we are hoping they will start nesting. High tides could be an issue so we'll keep a close eye on that situation and may have some debris to clear from fencing on 16th-17th. The wardens will be on site to meet any volunteers and visitors from now on. There will be tasks such as predator watches, public engagement and monitoring to help with in the coming weeks so please come down.
The photo above shows the view from the new monitoring hide, access to which members of the North Wales Little Tern Group are allowed. The hide is situated adjacent to one of the breeding pens and will offer unrivaled views of the breeding Little Terns. There are already nesting Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers on view. If you are interested in using it please ask the warden on duty. N.B. it may not be possible to use the hide on occasions due to bad weather or if it needs to be used for other purposes.
Thanks to the combined efforts of over 30 people during the last week all the fencing for the breeding pens is now up and is already hosting occasional inspections from the Little Terns. This was no mean feat as the pickup delivering the equipment couldn't get that near to the site this year due to soft mud getting in the way, so there was lots of carrying of equipment just to get it on site. With the additional support from the RSPB, Presthaven ranger, NWWT and volunteers from Northop College we got more fencing up than ever, protecting as much high quality breeding habitat as possible. The coming week will see us electrify the pens to keep foxes (and people) out during the breeding season.
From a pile of 'stuff' in a trailer to fully installed pens for the breeding terns.
Little Tern numbers continue to grow with 60 seen on the tide line today (05/05). The earliest date for nesting on record was set last year, on the 15th. Could the nice weather this weekend see that record get beaten by over a week? Time will tell.
Just a quick heads-up to willing participants that from 1st-4th of May we will be on site every day from 10am to put up the fencing. This is mainstay of our efforts to help the Little Terns as it keeps terrestrial predators, and people, away from the nests. There are a range of tasks, not all very physical, so please come down at meet at Shore Road Car Park, Gronant if you would like to get involved. The photo below is of fencing being put up in a previous year.
Of great interest was the first Little Terns of the season - spotted on 20/04, with 7 roosting at high tide with Sandwich Terns and gulls towards Talacre. This is the earliest ever record at Gronant.
We are days off from the first Little Tern appearing at Gronant and we are rapidly making preparations for the season ahead. Rhyl Harbour fencing was installed in record time thanks to volunteers and students from Llysfasi College near Ruthin (pictured on the left), and a pair of Ringed Plovers are already making their home there.
On the week of the 23rd we will be putting in the shiny new visitor center and hide. We will need to transport the panels down to the site first thing and get it put up during the day. Then the following day we will be assisting the RSPB with putting up fencing at the Point of Ayr site just down the coast by Talacre, where a pair of Little Tern has nested the last few years.
Volunteers are needed to keep an eye on the new structures before the wardens start their duties so if you can find a spare few hours please come down to the dunes.
10am on May the 1st is the start of installing fencing at Gronant. We will be putting up over 2km of netting, with posts, tension wire, insulators and a lot more to put in place. This will take us several days at least and the more pairs of hands the better. If you haven't taken part in this activity before please come down and there are many tasks to choose, with a range of physical requirements.