An Appeal by Denbighshire Countryside Services: We need your help protect little terns at Gronant, North Wales
The little tern is the smallest and one of the rarest terns breeding in the British Isles. They are easily recognised by a short tail, a white forehead and a yellow bill with a small black tip. Little terns begin arriving in mid-April to nest on sand or shingle beaches, spits or small inshore islands around much of the British coastline. They return to Africa in August. Little tern numbers in Britain have been declining since the 1970s due to diminishing suitable habitat, human disturbance, high tides and predation. To help protect little terns, many colonies are extensively managed in Britain.
Gronant is the only little tern colony in Wales. Due to hard work by local volunteers, it has become one of the most successful colonies in the British Isles. Last year, volunteers helped Denbighshire Countryside Services by monitoring breeding birds, talking to local beach users about the birds, constructing protective fencing and scaring away predators. These dedicated volunteers gave 896 hours of their time to help 99 little terns fledge at the site.
Denbighshire Countryside Service is a partner in the EU LIFE+ Nature Little Tern Recovery Project lead by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This project is a five-year partnership between 11 organisations working together to ensure the long-term future of little terns in Britain. Since 2013, through EU LIFE funding of the project, we have increased public awareness, provided new equipment, employed extra wardens at sites and introduced a colour-ringing programme. Through this programme we hope to discover more about movements of little terns. So far we have seen birds ringed at Blakeney and Winterton on the Norfolk coast resighted in Gambia.
For years little terns at Gronant have suffered heavily from kestrel predation. In 2015 alone, we lost 3 adults, 33 chicks and 8 fledglings to kestrels. During this year’s breeding season, the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS) are providing funding to try to solve this problem by supplying food for kestrels, as an alternative food source to little terns. This technique is known as diversionary feeding. Jack Slattery (LIFE+ Little Tern People Engagement Officer for Gronant) said, “We are very pleased the WOS has provided funding for this project because kestrels are one of the biggest threats to little terns at Gronant. We have decided to begin diversionary feeding because success scaring away kestrels using starter pistols, air horns and whistles is very limited. We enjoy seeing kestrels, but they are a huge threat to little terns. We hope this project will help both species flourish.”
We welcome new volunteers to help protect this delightful, chattering seabird at Gronant. Between today (Tuesday 3rd May) and Thursday 5th May, we will be constructing protective fencing from 10.00 until 15.00. If you would like to help with this or any other work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01745 356197.
If you cannot volunteer, why not show your support by becoming a member of the North Wales Little Tern Group. This community group helps protect little terns in north Wales. For a £5 membership, you will receive a welcome pack, a regular newsletter and an invitation to their end of season event. If you would like to become a member, please email email@example.com.