Little terns in Norfolk

July 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This weekend I had planed to see my brother in Norfolk so decided to take the camera and check out one of the Little tern colonies on the coast.

This is a schedule 1 species  and great care and effort go into protecting them their eggs and chicks.The birds I have photographed are at a well protected colony which is monitored 24 hours a day with an electric fence enclosing the complete colony and a further roped of exclusion zone to keep human disturbance to a minimum and to help keep out predators.

Prior to my visit I had contacted the Natural England warden Rick Southwood (I have in the past done some moth recording on this site), I let Rick know that I was hoping to make the trip over on Saturday morning he gave me the name of the Rspb warden who was in charge of the protection of these birds so I dropped him a line too.

I arrived in Norfolk in the early hours of friday morning. My brother and I drove to the site on friday evening and made our way to the wardens hut where we spoke to Daniel who told us that there were now many chicks that had already hatched and about an hour before we arrived he had counted approx 300 adult birds on the shoreline well out of the exclusion zone. We made our way over and took a few shots in some nice light although approaching any bird on an open beach is never easy we did manage to get close enough for a few shots. The morning light would be better as the sun would be in the right direction for us so we spoke to two of the wardens again just to make them aware of our intentions. The roped off area is the closet point at which you can get to the colony although a bit of common sense has to be used and if the birds feel you are too close we were told they would dive at you and that would mean you are to close regardless of the roped fence. We were told the best thing would be to sit on the sand ridge another 5m back where we would be plenty far enough back but still get views of the birds coming to and fro.

My alarm woke me at 3am and by 4am we were on the road. Exactly an hour later we were again on the beach. We said a quick hello to the latest warden who was approaching the end of the night shift and made our way in front of the colony where we sat/lay on the base of the sand ridge. Even though the forecast had been really favourable we were greeted with thick cloud cover so the light was not as good as it could have been and the sun only broke through for a few seconds at a time. 

After taking some flight shots as they past overhead and out to sea to fish we saw a bird land on the shingle directly in front of us, the bird moved just a few steps before settling down, the bird had decided to lay its eggs about 6m out outside of the perimeter fence and just below the roped area. We saw three more pairs of these little birds which had done exactly the same thing, it seems these pairs were later breeding as most of the others seemed to have chicks running everywhere, whereas all these pairs were obviously still sitting on eggs and only gave away their presence when they flew off or the males came and landed close to them We left at 8am and as we walked back towards the hut we could see through my brothers binoculars lots of little chicks running around, the terns certainly seemed successful this year!

Incidentally the wardens moved the barriers to protect these latest nests from being accidentally trampled or disturbed.



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