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Little Tern success at Beacon Ponds in 2019

It has been a mixed year for Little Tern colonies around the country, with some doing very well, others poorly and one, at least, falling prey to egg collectors.

Thankfully the Beacon Ponds colony is counted amongst the successful – in fact, we’ve had our best year ever.

Up to 100 birds have been present at times, with 25 pairs managing to fledge 39 young: a productivity of 1.56 chicks per nest. (Our previous best was 1.33 in 2014.) The colony was ‘walked’ three times by teams led by Warden Paul Collins to count nests and where possible, ring chicks. Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and Avocets were also monitored.

Anyone with any knowledge of Little Tern breeding will know it is an unpredictable and precarious business. Threats come from the weather, from predators and from accidental or indeed deliberate human interference. In all cases, fortune smiled on our colony this year: the only real issue with the weather was the cold spell in the late spring, which delayed the start of breeding; a redesigned electric fence succeeded in keeping mammalian predators at bay (both fox and otter were seen in the area) and only one pair of crows mounted any kind of sustained avian threat. Most human beach users kept away from the colony, with the majority of those who didn’t retreating quickly and apologetically when spoken to by our wardens (there are always a few who believe they “know their rights” – or even their “dogs’ rights”).

So, a good deal of luck is needed for the birds to perform well. But they also benefited from 24/7 wardening throughout the season, organised by Jonnie and our full- and part-time wardens Sandy Davidson, Jacob Spinks and Mick Turton. In addition, a total of 15 volunteers, from various backgrounds and levels of experience, provided invaluable support, with members of the management committee plugging a few gaps. We thank them all wholeheartedly.

We also thank those who have supported us financially: the South Holderness Countryside Society (who own the site); Gassco and Perenco at the Gas Terminal; and the Environment Agency. In these increasingly straitened times we simply could not do without them.

Special thanks to Mike Coverdale, Mike Pilsworth, Adam Stoyle and Heather Bennett.

Richard Boon

Little Tern Management Committee

The Beacon Ponds Little Tern Project is a joint venture of Spurn Bird Observatory, the South Holderness Countryside Society, the RSPB, the YWT and the Environment Agency.

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Posted: 03 September 2019

Little Tern success at Beacon Ponds in 2019