Autumn is fast approaching at the colony, with numbers of Little Terns consistently lower than in last month. The end of July brought a peak of 134 Little terns on 23rd July, whereas now our daily peaks are typically around 20 birds. The first chick fledged on the 24th July and by mid-August the majority have now fledged and are seen flying around the colony. The good number of nests in June and July, unfortunately did not yield the expected number of chicks reaching fledging age. Through the chick hatching stage in mid-July and into August, the colony was frequently visited by a Little Owl, that we believe has been responsible for several dead chicks and adults found in the colony during walkthroughs. This year a pair nested in a box by Westmere Farm and these are the birds which appear to have been visiting the colony. In May, a Ringed Plover ring was discovered in the Little Owl nest box and was found to be from a bird nesting at Beacon Ponds. Another example of direct predation from a Little Owls was a ring from a Little Tern chick that was found in a Little Owl pellet on Beacon Lane. This chick was ringed during a colony walkthrough a couple weeks beforehand.
It seems likely that this unexpected and intense predation pressure from Little Owls is the reason only a small number of Little Tern chicks fledged from the Beacon Ponds colony this year. We estimate that from 38 nests, 15 chicks have successfully fledged with one small chick being attended by its parents at the time of writing. Hopefully this chick can successfully fledge before the season is over.
Elsewhere at Beacon Ponds, there are several Ringed Plover fledglings around the colony and four recently hatched chicks appeared at the end of July; two at the north side of the colony and two at the south. The two at the north side were ringed during our final colony walkthrough on the 3rd August. As for Oystercatchers it seems that 2021 is going to be a poor year for breeders at Beacon Ponds. Four Oystercatcher chicks were found dead all within a few days of each other at the beginning of August.
All chicks found appeared emaciated suggesting they died of starvation possibly in combination with some poor weather in late July. One fledged chick remains at Beacon Ponds.
Once again, we would politely remind all birders who wish to view the little terns to do so from Long Bank – running between Beacon Ponds and Kilnsea Wetlands. In addition, signage on the beach at Beacon Ponds will indicate areas beachgoers must keep away from.
2021 Head Little Tern Warden
Posted: 02 August 2021
Thanks to all the many photographers who allow us to use their images on this site, in particular Dave McAleavey, Martin Standley, Mike Watson, Richard Willison.