Little Tern Survey 2012
Fri 31 Aug 2012
Here we report on what James found.
From early May to August 2012, James carried out a detailed survey of Little Tern breeding activity concentrating on the shingle and shell ridges to the east of the main channel on Bob Halls Sands and the Outer Harbour berm. The same methodology was followed as in 2011, originally set out by Royal Haskoning who commissioned the original survey in 2010. During the observations on Little Tern behaviour and breeding attempts, James also collected information on other nesting species such as Common Terns, Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Black-headed and common gulls. Little Terns are a schedule one breeding bird and are therefore legally protected. In order to avoid any disturbance to them on their nesting areas James watched them from a distance using a telescope with a 15 x 40 zoom lens.
Part of the reason for the survey was to check for any disturbance caused by vessel movements or the channel dredger, Kari Hege. Both Little and Common Terns were noted as fishing in the channel when the dredger was working, and although neither species feeds closer than 90-100 meters, James reported that the dredger did not appear to trouble either species. It is good to report that terns are actively using the Channel and the Outer Harbour for feeding.
The smallest of the terns found at Wells are the Little Terns. They have a black and yellow beak, a shrill cry and almost white wings. Weighing only about 50 grammes these birds migrate as far as West Africa in the winter - one ringed Norfolk bird was recorded in Senegal - and with just 1900 pairs in the whole of the UK, they are a closely protected species.
James wrote in his notes:
Tern Feeding behaviour – The feeding behaviour of the Little and Common Terns followed a distinct pattern that mirrored the findings of the previous two surveys. One aspect of feeding that was however noted in 2012 and not in 2010 or 2011 was the occurrence of trapped shoals of both Whitebait and Lesser Sandeels during certain ebb tides. The trapped fish quickly attracted the attention of both terns and gulls. Large feeding groups frantically fed on the trapped fish until the supply was exhausted. This situation although highly erratic in occurrence could be observed regularly until at least early August. It was most often observed just to the south of the Outer Harbour.
Other species of birds were recorded during the survey. Five pairs of Oystercatcher were noted on Bob Halls Sands but failed to fledge any young, however one pair on the Outer Harbour berm fledged one young. Two of three pairs of Ringed Plover on Bob Halls Sands laid eggs, and both pairs on the Outer Harbour laid eggs, one brood of chicks were seen but all were thought to have been predated. Twenty two pairs of Black-headed Gull laid eggs on Bob Halls Sands of which one pair probably hatched chicks. Six pairs laid eggs on the Outer Harbour berm of which three pairs hatched chicks. The outcome of the young is not known.
If anyone wishes to read the full report this can be accessed on the environmental page of the website.
James McCallum is a wildlife artist living and working in North Norfolk. For information on his paintings and books, visit www.jamesmccallum.co.uk