The North Wales Little Tern Group was formed in late 2015 by Adrian Hibbert, Patrick Kelly and Christine Maresma Pares. Adrian was the countryside ranger with Denbighshire Countryside Services with responsibility for the colony and had overseen the site for over a decade when the group was formed. Patrick and Christine were both regular volunteers with the project and all wanted to find a way to increase volunteer participation and gain access to charitable funding sources.
At the forefront of the group's ambitions are to support the Little Terns in all ways open to us. We want the birds to continue to succeed at this increasingly important site for the species. We also want more people to enjoy the birds and make aware the plight of the species to a larger audience. The formal operation of the Little Tern project is run by Denbighshire Countryside Services with the group offering support on a large range of things.
History and achievements year-by-year
2016 saw the group get off the ground and fund the purchase of new optics with 2x telescopes and 2x binoculars bought thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund. These transformed the wardens and volunteers ability to observe the birds for collecting crucial data on the outcome of the season but also to show visitors to the site the birds and enthuse a new generation of wildlife watchers. The membership of the group grew to around 50 in the first year.
2017 saw a similar increase in members to the previous year, with another 50 recruited bringing the total to over 100 members by the end of the season. This was the year that the colony became the largest in the UK with a record maximum of 161 pairs breeding. With the support of the everyone in the group we overcame serious Fox problems and paramotor disturbance which would have otherwise lead to a poor season.
2018 was a significant year for the group with several new projects coming on line. They included the purchase and installation on site over the summer of a new Visitor Center and Monitoring Hide. These two new structures brought a whole new feel to the running of the site with a more professional visitor engagement outfit and improved facilities for staff and volunteers to work in. Live-streaming to the Visitor Center from a couple of nests was also introduced giving everyone a new perspective on the nesting process and was a success in all aspects. A sponsorship programme was launched for kind individuals to help purchase trackers for a new project. Volunteer hours grew hugely to over 2000hrs during the season (700 the year before). A new collaboration with Bangor University saw 3 students collect data for their undergraduate dissertations. The group grew to over 200 members as of the end of the year and the committee grew to include a meetings secretary and media officer.
2019 will be a year to adapt to the end of the EU Life+ project but that doesn't meant the group's ambitions have stalled, far from it. The group will continue to work in the same ethic that was introduced during the Life+ project by continuing to promote the collection of high quality monitoring data. We will also assist Merseyside Ringing Group with the tracking project using geolocators which are to be fitted, the first of its kind on this species in Western Europe! The group will continue to assist Bangor University students with their projects on the terns with benefits to their studies and scientific insights for us. As it stands, one of last year's students is to be a warden this season who will bring with them previous experience working at the site. A larger area of fencing was constructed than ever. The final plan is to bring live-streaming to an online audience, watch this space!
To date the group has raised over £10000, contributed 1000's volunteer hours and now possess great experience in helping this most vulnerable of seabirds. We hope the model will be replicated at other Little Tern colonies around the UK in order to support the species nationally and are always happy to help other individuals thinking of forming a community group.