Morgan Vaughan and his fantastic team of staff and volunteers have been saving a species right here on our doorstep on Chesil Beach. This year 33 pairs of little tern have nested on Chesil Beach and produced 77 eggs. Hard to believe that just a few years ago the colony here was close to collapse with just a handful of birds hanging on. Its been a fantastic effort guarding the nest site night and day from disturbance by animals and people and now that the chicks have started hatching from birds of prey and other mammals.
Here is Morgan’s story:
It’s all going very well for the little terns, the weather is being incredibly kind to the terns and plenty of fish are coming in to fill the chicks. A majority of the fishing is happening out in Lyme bay. This was causing the chicks to gravitate up the bank towards the hide, affording volunteers, staff and members of the public wonderful views of the chicks which seem to be growing before our very eyes.
At the start of the season around 80 coconut matting baskets filled with sand were placed out on the little tern nesting site and the majority of the birds chose these to nest on giving the eggs greater protection and warmth than the cold shingle.
Sand patch nest with little tern chicks. Picture credit: Morgan Vaughan, RSPB.
Here was one chick yesterday who thought I couldn’t see him/her under the twig!
Photo credit: Morgan Vaughan, RSPB
Approx 10 day old chick – feathers starting to come through on the wing.
We have unfortunately started to have interest from a male kestrel at the colony so the excellent wardening team of volunteers and staff have increased their efforts in keeping him at bay and will hopefully prevent the kestrel from having lunch at our section of the beach.
We have also deployed shelters for the chicks which they have been using to get out of the heat of the sun – keeping them out of sight from hungry kestrels too.
2 day old chick using a chick tunnel. Photo credit: Morgan Vaughan, RSPB
More excitement came in the form of the oyster catchers hatching – This will hopefully cause their parents to be even more aggressive to potential predators and help the little terns protect their young.
68 little tern eggs have hatched in total this year – The last 2 hatching at the start of July.
Just hatching! Picture credit: Morgan Vaughan, RSPB.
We now have at least 50 fledglings on the foreshore – A phenomenal success for Chesil beach little terns and testament to the dedication of wardens and volunteers involved in protecting the birds through proactive wardening efforts. Huge thank yous must also go to funders and partners: EU Interreg PANACHE project, Natural England, Crown Estate, Portland Court Leet, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve who without their support this would not have been possible.
The marsh harriers have given us a scare recently after the male seemed to disappear for a couple of days, this was worrying as he should be bringing food in to the chicks or food passing to the female. Shirking his parental responsibilities surely not! Thankfully just as we were tweeting about it he returned and since then the first of the young marsh harriers have fledged from Lodmoor with 3 now testing out their wings over the reserve, very exciting!
Some of our volunteers based up at north hide were treated to some very unusual hunting behaviour from the female marsh harrier at Radipole Lake who was seen flying into the top of a tree and coming out clutching a magpie. Behaviour more suited to sparrowhawks than marsh harriers!
Excitingly a bittern has also been spotted flying close to the Discovery Centre at Radipole Lake, a rare occurance in June, all encouraging signs for this bird at our Weymouth nature reserves.
The skies are full of activity and colour at the moment with lots of dragonflies and butterflies on the wing and newly emerged moths; scarlet tiger and burnet. At Lodmoor a grass snake was seen swimming up the channel.
One lucky chap who kindly donated to the Chesil Beach Little Tern Project in return for a guided tour of Radipole Lake to see bearded tit was rewarded with great views of them and the masses of young about at the moment and walking back from the hide an otter was spotted along the River Wey too! Check out the fantastic pictures below.
Bearded tit. Photo credit: Jim Lodge
Otter. Photo credit: Jim Lodge
Coming soon! Chesil Beach Little Tern Project Blog
Up coming events
Fridays in July
11,18 & 25 Bat Walks at Radipole Lake 9-11 pm
Everyone knows us for our birds but Radipole has a healthy bat population too. Join us as the night-shift clocks on for a walk and talk to find out more about these fascinating mammals. Bat detecting equipment will be available to borrow and we guarantee no bats in your hair! £6 Non RSPB members, £4 RSPB members, £3 children and WEX members free. Booking required on 01305 778313.
It’s that time of year again when we’re very excited to announce that Marsh Harriers have once again bred at our Weymouth reserves, but this they’ve gone one better... We’ve actually got two pairs!
Since 2009 we’ve had a male bird which has successfully nested with several different females over the years and in some, managing to bag himself two in same season. At the time that was something we’d never really expected and in fact, joked one year about the possibility of two nests. In recent years we’ve joked about the possibility of two distinct pairs on the Weymouth reserves and earlier this spring we started to realise that this was actually a strong possibility. We’re now very pleased to announce that we’ve not only got two pairs but we’ve got two pairs with chicks! We don’t know how many yet, we’ll have to wait until they fledge which will be another few weeks but very exciting news none the less.
So why are two pairs better than two nests from the same male? Well, we’ve always been a little worried that our whole Weymouth population replies on one individual male who attracts in females during the late winter and early spring. He’s now at least 7 years old which isn’t particularly old for a harrier but if something was to happen to him we could loose our breeding Marsh Harriers from Radipole and Lodmoor. However, with the appearance of a new male who’s nesting at Radipole, it makes our population much more stable. Our Radipole bird is a younger male so will hopefully stick around for years to come.
The Radipole birds are real easy to see, the North Hide provides the perfect vantage point to watch these amazing birds. Weekends up until the end of July, we’ll have volunteers stationed at the hide (11am-3pm) to tell visitors about the birds and hopefully show you these impressive predators. See you soon!