We regularly conduct what we call ‘chick provisioning’ surveys – over a period of one or two hours we will observe one or two chicks within the same brood very attentively. We note down how many times they are fed during this period, the type of food prey that is brought back and the approximate size of the prey item. Most of the young birds this year will have been fed on small clupeids (mainly Atlantic herring or European sprat) and/or sandeel, the latter providing a lipid-rich, high-energy food. Chicks grow quickly – more so than the other terns – and fledging takes place 19 to 20 days later when they will have already reached the weight of an adult tern (about 50g or the weight of a tennis ball). There is a point in the season when the frantic hub of activity shifts from inside the electric fence to the foreshore. This is the stage when the majority of the young birds have fledged and have positioned themselves as close to the water’s edge as possible. To be that bit closer to the adult birds bringing back fish. If disturbance is low and predators are few the fledglings will stay on the beach near the colony and continue to be fed by their parents for several weeks as they practice and perfect their fishing and diving skills. Little terns catch their prey exclusively while on the wing. They hover over the water at heights of four to eight metres then ‘plunge-dive’ into the sea. They’ll do this several times a minute as their success rate is only about one in three of their dives. All this can generally be seen from the shore as the foraging range of little terns is the smallest of all the terns. We enjoy the site of this year’s fledglings attempting their first dives – they impersonate the adults rather well as they hover over the water but then they seem reluctant to take the plunge (or do they simply not know what they’re supposed to do next?) and crash into the water (belly flop comes to mind) before starting all over again. Photo credit: Lyn Ibbitson-Elks.