No sooner had we decided to start our 24/7 surveillance of the little tern colony at Eccles on the eve of the Bank Holiday weekend than the weather turned and by Sunday we were enshrouded in a thick sea mist, violent waves and gale-force winds. The little terns went quiet for a day or so, keeping low in the fenced area, and their constant ‘chatter’ could no longer be heard. They are sea birds after all and are used to such conditions but nevertheless it was not a promising start to their breeding season. As a North Sea storm brewed it became clear that they were here to mate and nothing would deter them. Amidst the crashing waves and the encroaching ocean foam the little terns continued their courting on the fore shore with males ‘fish slapping’ the females with long, silver sand eels. Pair bonding was all around us with the spectacular ‘high flights' where male and female ascend to a great height and then descend at great speed, close together, like fighter jets. Then at last we saw our first egg by Wednesday afternoon. Reports of north Norfolk little tern colonies succumbing to high tides and nests being washed out left us feeling vulnerable but relieved that it had not happened at Eccles. Until, of course, it did. At 4pm on the Thursday afternoon the tide was in and the waves started to breach far into the electric fence. The little terns began to ‘dread’ briefly where they leave the colony en masse. Never a good sign. Flooded by both water and foam we knew that we had lost multiple nests. Photo credit: Tom Arnold.