We are pleased to announce, after lots of planning and testing, that live-streaming is operational at the Visitor Center in the Gronant Dunes. Images are being beamed in from a couple of nests and the birds are currently on eggs. In about 10 days they are due to hatch and there will be great opportunities to see a tern's-eye view of the chicks being fed. Below is a snapshot of an adult sitting tight on its eggs. It takes luck (or great patience!) to see a changeover or food-pass, but is exciting when it happens. One adult on each nest is also colour-ringed so it is possible to see which adult is tending the nest at any one time. To see it for yourself please visit the site.
Numbers of birds have peaked lately at 420 adults, an increase on the roughly 350 which had been spending the summer here. We think this is likely due to an influx of failed breeders from other sites around the Irish Sea. It is getting late for these to start nesting now. They would still be around in Mid-August if they started now. Saying that, there are still displaying birds down on the beach. Of pairs that did re-lay we are over 80 active nests. The calm weather looks set to last, but whilst weather isn't a threat right now, a pair of Kestrels certainly are. They are being seen increasingly frequently. Consequently, any volunteer help down at Gronant will be very helpful in the coming weeks.
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.