It seems fitting to start the 2017 blog with the news that a few little terns have been seen on the south coast of England over the weekend. Since leaving our shores last September they have spent the winter in West Africa and those that return this spring will not include last year’s fledglings – they will remain for another year in Africa and will not have to undertake the 3,000 mile journey north. The first weekend in April is very early for little terns to be arriving but they were no doubt swept along on favourable southerly winds coming from as far south as North Africa. The high pressure was short-lived and by Monday conditions had reverted to the seasonal norm and it will be a good four weeks before we start to see the bulk of our breeding population arriving on the east coast of Norfolk. Time to reflect, therefore, on the previous year’s results for the 25 sites around the UK that form part of the five-year EU Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project (about 70% of the total UK sites where little terns breed). 2016 was the third year of the project and we recorded only 973 breeding pairs, relatively low compared with 1,103 pairs in 2014 and 961 pairs in 2015. However, fledgling numbers were up at 709 in 2016 (524 in 2014; 532 in 2015) with east Norfolk colonies contributing 320 fledglings to this total (45%). To maintain their numbers little terns need to produce a five-year average of 0.67 chicks per pair. We call this the ‘productivity’. The good news is that productivity for the Life+ Project population in 2016 was 0.73 (compared with 0.55 in 2015). We need to build on this increase in productivity with another successful breeding season in 2017 and in the stronghold that is East Anglia our expectations are high. Photo Credit: Lyn Ibbitson-Elks.