Last Friday was an important date in our diary as it was the national ‘Co-ordinated Count’ of all the little tern colonies around the UK. Results provide an early snapshot of how many birds have returned from West Africa to breed here this year as well as how many are already sitting on eggs. A second count is undertaken in mid-July. For us on the east Norfolk coast it was an interesting day with an unexpected arrival of more birds at both Eccles and Winterton. The previous day, on the 9th June, we had counted 300 adults at Eccles with 143 nests. At Winterton we had a small colony of 50 adults and 16 nests. We were very happy with the way both colonies were progressing. We also knew that there were upwards of 100 pairs breeding on Scroby Sands – a large sandbank off the coast of Great Yarmouth in the shadow of the eponymous e.ON windfarm. The sandbank is home to a variety of breeding sea birds as well as 3,000 or more grey seals. One of our team, Danny, had been out on the first seal boat of the season on 31st May to monitor the site and was really encouraged to see that over 200 of our east Norfolk population had chosen to breed on Scroby. We were all relieved to hear this news as it accounted for our ‘missing’ birds but it also meant that little terns had chosen to nest in three different locations this year as opposed to one ‘super colony’. If ever the expression ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is appropriate it is in this instance. The one downside to Scroby Sands, however, is its susceptibility to storm surges and Spring tides. Little terns generally nest on the lower slopes of the sandbank and are therefore most at risk of being washed out if the weather turns inclement. This is exactly what happened during Monday 5th June and Tuesday 6th June. By Friday 9th June the Scroby birds had left the sandbank and joined the two established colonies on the mainland with Eccles reporting over 80 new birds and Winterton witnessing a sudden influx of 150 birds. It is disappointing that Scroby Sands could not host a little tern colony this year but there is plenty of room at both Eccles and Winterton and it is early enough in the season for the new arrivals to relay one or two eggs (rarely a full clutch of three eggs) nine to ten days after their first nests were washed away. Photo credit: Elizabeth Dack.