Hi everyone! Today I want to tell you about the amazing time I had last weekend, I had the pleasure to help at a Big Wild Sleepout! It took place at Arne and we invited 72 people to camp on the Friday night, parents and children from local school in Poole. The RSPB organisers were aiming to engage families to have fun in nature and raise awareness of conservation. The children were about 5-6 years old, they were lovely and very curious: as soon as they arrived at the campsite they started running and playing around the woods! It was very refreshing for all the volunteers to see them having fun in contact with nature, considering how technology-absorbed society is nowadays.
We greeted the families with cream teas and helped them to set their tents up. Tom, the staff host, cooked dinner for everyone whilst the children made animals and shelters out of clay and natural elements. Somehow, Tom managed to make an delicious curry from scratch on an open fire. For dessert, we had fruit and an upside down pineapple pudding, yes...upside down! Tom dug out the recipe from YouTube (see it here), after mixing ice cream, flour, sugar and pineapple a surprisingly nice dessert was made. After some nice smores at the fire circle, we all got ready for a night walk. We walked around areas usually inaccessible to the public, showing the families secret Arne with nightjars and bats. We ended up knackered, perfect for a night’s sleep in a sleeping bag.
Being woken up at 6am by singing birds and screaming children wasn’t as bad as it might sound, especially after the delicious full-English breakfast Tom prepared! Following it, we had to clean the cooking pots and organise the mess tent. And, before I could realise it, the sleepout was over and I was on my way back to my own bed. It was exhausting but I had a superb time getting to meet wonderful families and enhancing their interest in nature.
Next week I'll be starting butterfly surveys and learning more about British Wildlife and how to identify different species. More about that in my next blog. Hasta la vista!
Hello everyone, including volunteers old and new!
The Little Tern Project at Chesil Beach is a one that aims to help boost the dwindling number of feisty little terns that nest here, in partnership with other land-owners and charities (Natural England, Chesil Bank and Fleet Nature Reserve, The Crown Estate, Dorset Wildlife Trust and Portland Court Leet). The colony is the only one in the South West- an accolade we are all very proud of!
This season has been a series of ups and downs, and with an early blow in the form of a fox attack, it looked as though the Project team were in for a tough ride this year.
The terns had other ideas. They hunkered down, rode out the storm, foxes, kestrels and crows to produce a grand total (so far) of 33 nests, with nests 1, 6 & 13 (we number each nest to make it easier to survey them) blazing the trail for the other pairs as survivors of the fox attack (cue Destiny’s Child outburst). To date, over sixty chicks have hatched, including as many as thirty fledglings seen since June 23rd!
We have three nests still incubating (45-47), so our total looks set to rise even more, which will further boost the population of this endangered little bird.
Our colony is watched around the clock, and I am one of the lucky night wardens who gets to watch the sun set and rise again, all in the name of conservation. Being on duty until 6am gives us the opportunity to do the first nest count of the day, and make sure all is well with the colony. Fortunately our nocturnal neighbourhood foxes have been relatively scarce to date, so that when they do pop up, we’re almost eager to see them off!
However, one animal determined to rain on our parade is the Kestrel. These beautiful and highly-skilled predators have had their beady eye on our terns from the off. We took heavy losses throughout June, with fears that the suspect pair from Portland would greatly deplete chick numbers.
But, as mentioned above, this is a rollercoaster season, and the introduction of diversionary feeding on the concrete buttress has proved highly effective. The station has successfully done its job, cutting down on the number of tern chicks taken, which is great! And our diligent volunteers, have been helping out with the kestrel deterrent dance, involving everything from clapping, hand-waving to shouting and, on my part, some verbal abuse!
So despite the constant threat the kestrel poses, this season can still be a positive one if we continue to join forces with the terns and keep those pesky kestrels away. Thanks to our team of dedicated volunteers for all your effort so far! Find out how our volunteer, Julia, got along volunteering at Chesil beach here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/weymouthwetlands/b/weymouthwetlands-blog/archive/2015/07/14/big-beach-little-terns.aspx
Nicole Walton, Chesil Beach Little Tern Project Assistant
Hi everyone! I am Julia Lopez Delgado, I come from Gran Canaria and am currently studying Environmental Biology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As part of my degree I had the option to go on a placement for the summer... and what better place than the RSPB to learn?
I’ve been helping for a few weeks so far and I have been lucky enough to visit work at Arne, Radipole Lake and Chesil Beach in that time. Therefore I have been able to do varied jobs, this is something I’m really enjoying as at this point I still don’t know what field I want to work in and so this is the perfect opportunity for me to try lots of different things and hopefully I’ll discover my passion. At Radipole and Arne I have been working with children and trying to get them interested in nature (more about that in my next blog!) whilst at Chesil Beach the work has been based on the conservation of the little terns. I’m especially interested in the scientific side of this job, so working on the conservation of the little terns has been amazing.
The little terns are a fascinating species that migrates from the West African coast every summer to lay eggs in various British sites. The only colony in the South West of England is found at Chesil Beach! It is the smallest of the terns and one of the rarest species of the UK, making it particularly vulnerable against predators such as gulls, kestrels and foxes. It is included in the Amber List, it had been experiencing a alarming decline until the RSPB drew a scheme to protect them in 2009. The arduous efforts of the RSPB are giving them a brighter future. Last year, 1200 hours of volunteering resulted in 60 beautiful fledglings: an all-time record that resulted of the commitment and hard work of all the team. The programme includes a 24 hour monitoring, in which the predators are scared away and the nests are guarded, allowing the population to be accurately studied and protected. As you can see in the picture above, these birds are brilliant at camouflaging themselves.
Last Tuesday I had my first 8 hour shift, I feel so passionate about protecting them from predators that I wouldn’t stop listening to their song and picking up on any signs of danger. I wouldn't even stop for lunch because I was scared that a kestrel might take one of the little chicks away! Fortunately, no chicks were taken so I was able to sleep well after hours of running around the beach.
I’m going to be here until Mid August and blogging every week about my experiences, so watch this space to see what I get up to. You can be an RSPB volunteer too! Visit rspb.org.uk/volunteering or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how to join me.