Little Terns & More: Spurn Bird Observatory, Summer 2021

The following post is by WWRG trainee Lucy Mortlock, currently working as a warden at the Little Tern colony at Spurn Point, covering her work at the site.

The Little Tern project at Spurn is primarily focused on monitoring and protecting the Little Terns that arrive here each spring. Maximum numbers of Little Terns are currently around 100 individuals most days. Some adults and juveniles have arrived from colonies further north, slightly swelling our numbers, but they are remaining fairly consistent. Our first chicks hatched on 3rd July, meaning that we now have some of our very own juveniles fledging. So far we have three fledglings, with more to follow this week. It’s an absolute delight to watch them stretching their wings and preening their feathers on the shoreline, and a little scary to think these tiny, young birds will soon be departing for west Africa.

Little Tern chick

As part of the project chicks are ringed with metal BTO rings and, if they are big enough, yellow colour rings.

Little Tern chick with yellow Darvic ring

The colony is protected by an electric fence and has a 24 hour warden watching effort, meaning that it is a great choice of nesting habitat for other ground nesting birds. In among the terns, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers have been nesting and raising young. At least 10 pairs of Ringed Plover have successfully hatched chicks, and as recently as this week two new pairs of chicks have been seen on the shoreline.

Ringed Plover chick

Ringed Plover chicks can run and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching, meaning that you can often see these fuzzy little pompoms dashing about on the shoreline, more or less completely independent of the adult birds.

Oystercatcher chicks are a little less independent of their parents, and tend to be seen in association with an adult bird. Seven Oystercatcher chicks from four nests have hatched within the colony, and this lucky bird got a ring. While Ringed Plover chicks can be ringed while they are still very young, Oystercatchers need a couple of weeks to grow into their legs before they can be ringed.

Oystercatcher chick

The Little Terns will be heading off within the next couple of weeks and we’ll have a final count of the number of chicks fledged. It will be very quiet without them!

All birds have been ringed under license from the BTO.

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