The North Wales Little Tern Group (hereafter referred to as the NWLTG) was formed as a community group in late 2015, with the twin aims of increasing volunteer participation at Gronant, the last colony in Wales, and to raise funds to support the project run by Denbighshire Countryside Services and other partners. Further goals include raising awareness of the species and it's conservation status, encouraging research and protecting other sites where the birds could colonise in the future.
To help achieve these aims the group launched a membership which costs just £5 per year for adults and £3 for children. In return members get access to the monitoring hide at Gronant, a Little Tern pin badge, newsletters during the season, end of season report, and invites to a series of events culminating in the end of season event; an evening of talks.
In the short time the NWLTG has existed, a lot has been achieved with the support of the members. Funds have been used to purchase new optics, a new 'visitor centre', along with the monitoring hide further down the dunes and a diversionary feeding station for Kestrels, one of the chief predators of tern chicks. For anyone who has visited the site in previous years they may remember the little green wardens shack, which more closely resembled an air raid shelter. The new facilities offer a much more airy space to take cover from the weather, engaging with visitors and for monitoring the birds more effectively.
Terns are not particularly site faithful and although the largest
extent of habitat and most significant protections are installed at
Gronant, the birds can up and leave if there is too much disturbance
from predators or tides flood out the site (as happened here in 2015).
Consequently the NWLTG helps put up fencing at the RSPB's Point of Ayr
and Rhyl Harbour, both sites where Little Tern has bred in recent
years. These sites could potentially hold viable colonies in the future
and offer a backup should anything happen at Gronant.
Going forward, there are plans to conduct a tracking project to find out where the Little Terns from Gronant migrate to and spend the winter, plus this season there will be cameras installed by a couple of nests beaming live images back to the visitor centre for visitors to enjoy, showing a new aspect on the breeding season.
so much happening since the formation of the group it is easy to forget
one of the core reasons for it's formation; to increase the number of
volunteers to help look after the terns during the summer. The tasks
include predator watches, site maintenance, monitoring and visitor
engagement. To that end, if you like the sound of getting involved with
the group then please consider becoming a member and/or heading down to
the beach at Gronant where the wardens are always welcoming of any help
you can give (map of how to get to the colony below). Membership can be
obtained by e-mailing email@example.com.
For updates during the season please visit the NWLTG facebook and twitter pages.
Further info on the group can be found at www.northwaleslittleterns.weebly.com.
Colour-rings were also recorded by Steve Hinde, Eddie Williams, Matt Thomas, Steve Williams, Derek Bates, Allan Hitchmough and Tim Kinch.
The spring migration was steady without being spectacular, although there were big numbers of White Wagtails moving through Hoylake Shore with three figure counts on four dates, max 300+ on the 16th. There were also 40 on Hilbre on the 16th, over 20 at Leasowe Lighthouse on the 19th and 30 at Gronant on the 29th.
The table below shows the first arrival of some of our commoner migrants (plus Cuckoo which is now scarce), apart from the early Wheatear arrival dates were not untypical for recent years.
|Wheatear||9th March|| Leasowe
|11th March||23rd March|
|White Wagtail||14th March||Hilbre||4th March||15th March|
|Sand Martin||15th March||West Kirby||11th March||16th March|
|Willow Warbler||27th March||Greasby||17th March||29th March|
|Swallow||29th March||West Kirby||14th March||24th March|
|House Martin||6th April||Burton||27th March||7th April|
|Whitethroat|| 7th April
|17th April||13th April|
|Swift||22nd April||Burton||19th April||22nd April|
|Cuckoo|| 23rd April
||Decca Pools||24th April||21st April|
Wood Warblers are getting quite rare these days so it was good to see a nice showy one at Leasowe Lighthouse on the 15th as the photo shows, first one there for many years. One singing male (there were some reports of two?) was in the wood by the Reception Hide at Burton Mere Wetlands from 20th to 25th. It is always good to see Ring Ouzels and Common Redstarts and we had plenty of both with the first of the former on the 3rd and the latter on the 9th, a lovely male Ring Ouzel stayed at least a week at Leasowe Lighthouse see photo below. The first Whinchats were early arriving on April 9th, Yellow Wagtails were a bit thin on the ground, the first one was seen on the 14th with just one or two since.
A Green-winged Teal was on Heswall Shore from the 19th to 24th giving good views, we think a first for that part of the estuary. A white-morph Snow Goose was on Burton Marsh on the 24th and 25th, with several hundred Pink-footed Geese. Pink-footed Geese are known as 'carriers' for this species so it is a possible wild bird, although it's origin as a feral or escaped bird is probably more likely. Over 8,000 Pink-footed Geese were recorded heading north through the month, mainly at dawn, a spectacular sight. Having been present all winter two or three Eiders were present off Hilbre all month and it was presumably two of these which were seen off Heswall on the 28th. A Long-tailed Duck was spotted off the north end of Hilbre on the 18th.
There were several reports of a single Red Kite over Wirral, both early in the month and in the third week. I'm told they are breeding on Halkyn Mountain (inland of Holywell) so perhaps they are coming over from there. Ospreys were recorded on four dates, including excellent views on two consecutive days at Leasowe Lighthouse including one landing on the shore and eating a fish.
Whimbrels peaked on the 27th with 49 at Heswall and there was a record 155 Avocets at Burton Mere Wetlands right at the end of the month. Out to sea there were three Great Northern Divers and 42 Red-throated Divers off north Wirral/Hilbre on the 17th. The most unusual record of the month was of a White Stork over Burton Mere Wetlands on the 9th.
14th June, 12.09hrs (BST), 9.6m.
15th June, 12.58hrs (BST), 9.7m.
16th June, 13.48hrs (BST), 9.6m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire
Countryside Service and the
RSPB (Dee Estuary):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching. No need to book for these events unless specified - please check below.
Feel free to just turn up at these events but if you need further details please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Denbighshire Countryside Services 01745 356197. For the events actually at the Little Tern colony in Gronant Sand Dunes please park at the car park opposite Crofters Pantry Cafe on Shore Road, Gronant (Shore Road is sign posted 'Lower Gronant/Presthavens' from A548). Walk over the railway bridge and turn left through the five bar gate opposite Presthavens Sands Holiday Park, to the right you will see a footbridge over the river which you walk over to reach the dunes. Also see Gronant Site Guide which includes a map.
Anybody can help with the preparations for the new season at the only Little Tern Colony in Wales, and one of the most productive in the country thanks mainly to the volunteers and wardens doing such a fantastic and important job. I would recommend bringing refreshments, sturdy footwear and warm clothing.
1st - 5th May: 10 am start - Electric fence construction at the Little Tern Colony in Gronant Dunes.
Price: £12 per person (£9.50 RSPB members)
Booking essential - ring 0151 353 2720.
It's International Dawn Chorus Day, so join us at Burton Mere Wetlands to experience the magic of the reserve waking up as the sun rises. With a wonderful mix of woodland and wetlands, there's no better place to experience the early morning birdsong.
An expert guide will help identify the bird calls and songs around you, plus all the other kinds of wildlife that makes its home here. Enjoy a hot drink afterwards in the Reception Hide, then a chance to explore the rest of the reserve on your own before it opens at 9am.
Advanced booking and payment essential.
13th May, Burton
Marsh (RSPB) Birdsong and Breakfast.
Price: £15 per person / £12 RSPB members (includes full breakfast)
Booking essential - ring 0151 353 2720.
Meet at the junction of Station Road and Denhall Lane, west of Burton village.
Join us for this exclusive event as part of Wirral Walking Festival; a gentle walk along the Burton Marsh Greenway as far as Burton Point before retracing our steps to Denhall Lane as far as Nets Cafe for a full English breakfast.
A variety of warblers are busy establishing breeding territories here at this time of year, whilst the marsh is peppered with other summer migrants such as wheatears and alive with the songs of skylarks and meadow pipits. This early morning walk will offer chance to see and hear the marsh coming to life for the day in this busy time for nesting and migrating birds.
The route is along a fully accessible paved track. Booking and payment in advance essential. Price includes breakfast at Nets Cafe.