It’s been a week of mixed fortunes, yet again!
Our annual nest count revealed that things were pretty stable in all departments, except the Sandwich Terns which were slightly less in number this year - but no drastic changes to report. Our thanks go to everyone who came along and helped us with this nerve wracking task, your professionalism ensured the day went without a hitch.
A very dry spring followed by some cold and windy spells probably meant that everything seemed slow to start this year, but the seabirds finally settled and the first influx of chicks arrived courtesy of the black-headed gulls who are always the ‘early birds’ ........then this happens.
Yet again, we stood helplessly by as the sea and an unfavourable wind direction took its toll, the casualties were everywhere to be seen. The lagoon at the oyster beds was badly hit, a significant number of the black-headed gull nests were swept away and the sea awash with eggs. Fortunately some of the already hatched chicks managed to find high ground and survive the deluge, a consolation of sorts, but only the lucky few. The instinct of the parents is amazing though, as the water rose they started frantically bringing in extra nesting material, trying to build up their nests and although of little consequence, it was nevertheless a valiant effort on their part and maybe for one or two it saved the day!
It’s hard not to get emotional (I had a little weep) but life does go on. The gulls may well try again and it wasn’t a disaster for everyone as the common terns who have settled down on the newly installed raft were not affected at all. In fact my spirits were lifted when one arrived back with a whopper of a sand eel to feed its lucky partner, oblivious to what was unfolding all around. We had not seen any evidence of fish being bought in until 21st May and were somewhat concerned for all of the terns. Of course the larger Sandwich terns will happily travel further afield for their food, the common terns like to be relatively local, but the little terns stay within a kilometre of home, so if the fish aren’t there, the little terns will likely move elsewhere. Fortunately plenty of seafood is being bought in now.
Litter is of course our nemesis and the tide brings with it, twice a day, a cacophony of strange items as well as a deluge of plastic. Our marvellous volunteers give up their free time to lend a hand and keep on top of things with regular beach cleans, and we take away bags and bags of detritus. Occasionally when a storm comes through everything from boats to brick walls is washed up, but that we also expect. What has come as a complete surprise to us though is fly tipping. Yes this curse of the countryside clearly knows no bounds. We regularly hear from colleagues around the UK who constantly battle with fly tippers, but call us naive, we thought that our islands in the middle of the sea and only accessible by boat would be immune to such things. Alas no, as you can see in our photograph what appears to be a broken trailer has been dumped in the middle of one of the islands! Ironically where they likely launched their boat to get there is about 100 metres away from a public waste and recycling centre - oh dear.
To end on a lighter note we have a nest of gargantuan proportions to show you. Not known ordinarily for their expert construction techniques this is surely record breaking. I’ve seen the Mediterranean gulls create some monster nests in the past, but this is a first for me to see their smaller cousin, the black-headed gull go in for the skyscraper look. This pair have gone to extraordinary lengths to rise above it all, do terns smell or something?
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