How many sea swallows will it take to make a summer?

Thursday 3rd May 2018

We’ve been busy getting everything ready for the terns’ arrival at Cemlyn Nature Reserve on Anglesey. Alison, Roseate Tern LIFE Project officer for NWWT, shares some of the work so far …

There are many regional names for terns around Britain’s coasts and seas. ‘Sea swallow’ is the English translation of the Welsh ‘môr-wennol’ for these beautiful and enigmatic sea birds. Every year, terns make long, dangerous journeys from South and West Africa and the Antarctic to return to their summer breeding and fishing grounds around Anglesey and, in particular, the Trust’s flagship nature reserve at Cemlyn.

Over the years, Cemlyn’s tern colony has been remarkably successful, hosting both common and Arctic terns and Wales’s only breeding Sandwich terns. Between 2012 and 2016, Cemlyn’s Sandwich terns comprised 20% of the UK population and 3% of the world population. However, 2017 saw a dramatic and catastrophic break in all the terns’ breeding success with a small family of otters focussing their hunting on the breeding birds. The terns abandoned Cemlyn and breeding failed.

During the summer of 2017, with financial help from the Roseate Tern LIFE Project and the efforts of the Trust’s staff and volunteers, four tern rafts were installed on the lagoon to provide additional surface area for nesting to take place. Last winter, the Trust and its hardy volunteers got down to the serious, cold, wet and muddy work of consolidating, improving and protecting the birds’ existing nesting habitat on the lagoon’s islands. This work has included the erection of fencing to help protect breeding birds against the attention of otters.

Although both spring and the terns are late in 2018, the arrival of our wardens at Cemlyn is a sure sign that summer is on the way. Our new wardens, Tim and Tarik, will be closely monitoring the newly created and improved areas and their use by terns and other birds while helping visitors enjoy and engage with the Trust’s conservation work and the many wildlife wonders at Cemlyn.

Why not visit Cemlyn Nature Reserve and watch as the terns arrive, where our wardens will be on hand to give you a warm welcome and share the wonder that is Cemlyn!