On the 5th March 2022 twelve members of the group met at the Presthaven gate to visit the colony out of season and see how things had changed following several late winter storms.
The walk to the beach on the refurbished boardwalk was most pleasant in the warm Spring sunshine. As ever, the shingle banks have changed since last season appearing to be slightly lower but with a good mix of pebbles and sand, presenting a good nesting habitat.
Today’s high tide was at 12.30pm and 8.5m. Albeit with little wind, the tide line was well below the nesting area. It is likely that fencing will be similarly placed as last season. The visitor centre will no doubt be erected in the usual place but the hide will need to be moved because it now overlooks a dune rather than the beach. A new location closer to the visitor centre was identified.
Laurence Clark had checked out the connectivity with a view to live streaming to a website. The outcome was positive. It will be possible to use a mobile phone, a battery and a solar panel to provide a feed that can be moved around as required. This may be something that NWLTG might like to fund.
Cormorant, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Common Scoter (five close to shore), Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Oyster Catcher, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler (heard), Magpie, Carrion Crow, Reed Bunting.
Thanks to everyone who came down for the official opening ceremony of the Visitor Center and Hide at Gronant on a sunny and hot Sunday afternoon. We are grateful to Tony Thomas, lead for the environment in the council, for presenting a speech and cutting the ribbon. A group shot of the event is displayed below. It was a bit hot but refreshing drinks were flowing.
For something a little different, the following is a write-up by Maddalena, an Italian student doing a placement down at the tern colony a few weeks ago:
"I started my experience as a volunteer in the tern colony yesterday (19\06) and I was fascinated by all the work that’s put in the welfare of the birds. Being a foreigner I had never heard of the Little Terns before but I quickly recognised the beauty and importance of these shy sea birds and why they need our help to keep their nests safe and undisturbed. As a new and inexperienced volunteer my first day was spent mostly observing, listening and learning from the wardens that were fixing the damage done by the storm, but also helping actively by cleaning debris and carrying equipment, always careful not to step on the little chicks! A lot of work is put in to prevent predator attacks, checking the electric fences and making stone barriers to keep out the foxes and looking out for air predators such as the kestrel, but its noticeable these little birds are not defenceless, scaring away seagulls and dropping near your head to try to distance you from their nests. I really enjoyed my time there and the wardens have been nice and willing to tell me all about the colony and included me in their work whenever possible, even showing me one of the little chicks, but most importantly encouraging me to go look for a more naturalistic-oriented path for my future. I highly recommend trying the experience of volunteering in the colony, not only for its beauty but most importantly for what it can teach everyone."
In the next week most of the re-laid nests will hatch, but there will be high tides over the weekend. With the fairly benign weather there shouldn't be a repeat of a month ago but there may be debris to clear from fencing. Kestrels are around and taking some chicks but we are doing everything we can to reduce their damage to the colony. An update on that will be forthcoming once we know how successful the attempts at distracting them from tern chicks have been.
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.