More Little Terns (Hopefully)

Little Tern with lunch

Little Tern with lunch

As the first sightings of Little Terns  start to come in across the country I’m starting to turn more of my attention to my local colony.  The South Swale nature reserve near Faversham is run by Kent Wildlife Trust and like many colonies across the country has declined over the years.  However a recent appeal from KWT raised significant funds and hopefully in the near future this colony will benefit from a huge increase in protection.  At present a small band of dedicated volunteers warden the site during the day, and this summer I am joining them.

Little Tern with prey

Little Tern with prey

Many of the larger colonies in the UK and Ireland have paid, full time staff to protect nesting birds from disturbance and predators over the summer months.  And this can make a massive impact on their breeding success.  Kilcoole in Ireland are just such an example and have even made a pretty cool little video about their work.   So although I won’t be quite as full on as them (I’m not staying in a caravan or going out at night with a gun…) I will be staking out some shingle and hoping that some Little Terns settle, and if we are really lucky they will get some chicks to fledging.

Just before a dive

Just before a dive

 

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Little Terns

Summer has finally begun!  I base this on the fact that I’ve seen Little Terns preparing to make their nests on the shingle at Rye Harbour.

real terns

These two happy campers were looking like they were setting up right by the roadside, a perfect viewing spot for anyone interested in these diminutive birds.   But of course this isn’t just by chance, the reserve have put a lot of effort into protecting these birds as they aren’t doing too well at the moment.  They choose to nest on very open, exposed beaches where they can get flooded out by high tides, eaten by mammals on the ground or hunted by birds of prey in the air.  Combine that with having to feed hungry little chicks by carrying back small fish from the sea one at a time and parenthood for a Little Tern sounds like a tough job.  But at Rye Harbour the terns are coaxed into nesting a bit further inland safe from the sea, inside a nice big electric fence that should protect them from dogs, foxes and badgers.

fake terns

This is done with the help of some fake terns sitting out on the shingle ridges looking like they’re enjoying themselves.  And to really sell it the inanimate objects are given a voice with a tape playing Little Tern calls in the background.  Combine this with a second electric fence to block really determined predators and you get the perfect summer location for a tiny tern.  And now that a few terns have been drawn in by the decoys and tape playback, the whole process should snowball as the real terns sit there, calling away like the two in the top picture, and attract other breeding pairs.

So look forward to more pictures of these guys as they one of my favourite seabirds and look like they should be around in numbers for yet another summer in Rye Bay.