'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Slow Terns?

Not the Prairies but Gronant Dunes

I blog about SLOW things mainly. Taking time for noticing, sniffing, watching, being.  The little terns at Gronant beach don’t have much time for being slow right now.

This Sunday we responded to a plea on Facebook from the wardens at Gronant, the chicks are beginning to hatch and the kestrels have noticed.  Kestrels mostly eat voles and lizards but they will take little tern chicks.  The wardens reckon that having people placed carefully along the beach might help keep them at bay.   

From the path to the viewing platform, I spotted a reed bunting dressed like a country parson, singing in a tangled rose bush. It’s not a glamorous song but he’s persistent and I like his style.  High in the wide blue sky, specks of skylarks sang without pausing for breath.  And I’ll swear I heard the fishing reel sound of a grasshopper warbler coming from the tall grass. 

The edges of the board walk were lit up with deep pink orchids and silver sea holly like a glitzy catwalk.  As we approached the beach, the  creaky cries of little terns could be heard over the whistling marram grass.  We watched them overhead, bright white, like freshly laundered hankies fluttering in the breeze.  Some had tiny silver sand eels dangling from their beaks, others were chasing, swooping, landing, lost among the pebbles in the fenced-off colony.  

We chatted to Jack the warden, who was very bright-eyed even though he’d been on duty since 4am.  As we spoke a kestrel appeared, hovering over the dunes.  Jack ran off to the far end of the colony and we watched to see what it would do.  It hung motionless over the marram grass at the back of the colony then circled high and moved away.  Maybe our presence put it off?  Through my binoculars I could see it in aerial combat with a pair of buzzards. Obviously it has chicks somewhere in the vicinity and felt threatened by the presence of these big birds of prey.  So it goes in the natural world. Buzzards bother kestrels, kestrels bother little terns, little terns bother sand eels. 

Whether we helped see the kestrel off I don’t know. I do know that it was fantastic being at the colony. It felt big and wild there, we had a real sense of being right in the middle of nature's battle for survival.  And for me, I’m pretty sure a spell on a windswept beach under a big blue sky certainly helped my survival. I felt alive and ready for anything...though perhaps not being carried off by a kestrel.

Gronant has the potential to be the largest little tern colony in the UK this year but they need help.
If you’ve an hour or two to spare, get down there for a bit of reviving wildness and give a hand to protect these feisty little birds in the process. 

Or search for Gronant Little Terns on Facebook - their photographs of little tern chicks are very cute!

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