Beacon Lagoons Nature Reserve 2018

The Little Tern colony continued to be managed by Spurn Bird Observatory with a steering group including representatives from partner organisations Environment Agency, Natural England, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and SHCS. The Little Tern Protection Scheme received funding from the EU Life + Little Tern Recovery Project, in its fifth and final year, and from the Environment Agency. This allowed the employment of wardens Ben Harrington and Mick Turton in addition to covering ongoing costs such as electric fence maintenance. Practical support was provided by RSPB (staff and volunteers from RSPB Old Moor who helped erect the electric fence) and YWT (transporting heavy batteries using their 4×4 truck). Practical wardening support was given by at least eight volunteers, two more than in 2017, each staying for at least a week. This allowed more comprehensive 24 hour wardening. The available breeding area was reduced this year due to the further encroachment of sand dunes. This made observation of the colony more difficult.

The first Little Tern returned on 26 April and numbers gradually built up to seventy by the end of May. The season’s maximum count was 105 on 18 June. A careful walk through the colony on 19 June revealed 28 nests with eggs and another three were discovered in subsequent days. Chicks started to hatch on 23 June but during the night of 26 June most eggs and all but three chicks were predated by a fox which had managed to enter the colony through or over the electric fence. The three surviving chicks fledged successfully. Despite much courtship behaviour being observed in early July, only one pair relaid, successfully fledging one chick.

The total number of Little Tern chicks that fledged in 2018 was four which represented 0.12 chicks per pair. This is low when compared with the rolling five year average of 0.66 chicks per pair. However, the rolling five year number of pairs was 34.0, the second highest since 2006.

Numbers of Little Terns declined rapidly through July to just two at the end of the month and none were seen after 19 August.

Only one Little Tern chick was ringed – the final one to fledge. The value of ringing was shown by reports of a bird which was originally ringed at Beacon Lagoons and which was subsequently seen at Little Tern colonies in North Wales and Cumbria. This highlights the scale of movements of these birds between colonies and emphasises the importance of protecting colonies.

The tern rafts were left in place during the 2017-18 winter due to the weather preventing their removal. They were, again, occupied by Avocets. All twelve local pairs bred on the rafts and fledged five young. A pair of Black-headed Gulls nested on a raft but the nest failed. The rafts have been brought ashore for the winter.

The reserve is important for two other breeding wader species. Ringed Plovers had another successful year with a minimum of twelve chicks fledging from up to ten pairs. Five pairs of Oystercatchers on the reserve only managed to fledge five chicks.

Throughout the breeding season there were a number of incidents of disturbance to the colony involving members of the public. These ranged from dog walkers and ‘photographers’ walking near the fence to motorbikes, a quad bike and a Range Rover being driven near the outer fence. The importance of a warden presence was therefore emphasised by allowing potentially more serious problems to be avoided through vigilance and tactical intervention. For example, the riders of motorbikes on the beach were spoken to by the warden, after which they left the area. Walkers, sometimes with dogs, were happy to retreat when the warden explained the risk of the potential effect of disturbance.

We are fast approaching the next breeding season when it is hoped that predation will be kept under closer control. One measure will be the implementation of overnight wardening several days before the first eggs are due to hatch – foxes seem to know that they can make a maximum gain if they can get in to the colony at night soon after hatching begins!

Beacon Lagoons is not just about breeding Little Terns. From July to September the reserve hosts large numbers of migratory waders in high tide roosts, sometimes numbering over 10,000 birds. These include Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover, Redshank, Curlew and Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, often with small numbers of Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. The sight of these flocks commuting between this site and the Humber Estuary is always worth seeing. During the winter, large numbers of wildfowl can be seen on the main pond. These can include several hundred each of Brent Goose, Wigeon and Teal with small numbers of Shoveler, Pintail, Gadwall and Goldeneye.

A visit to Beacon Lagoons at any time of year is sure to be rewarded with plenty of birds to see and maybe something a bit more unusual – there have been a few sightings of otter in the area in the recent past.

Beacon Lagoons – The 2017 breeding season update

By 25 June a minimum of 45 pairs of Little Terns were breeding and the first chick had hatched.  A few more pairs still looked as though they may yet breed.

Unfortunately the very poor weather on 28-30 June spoilt a promising start to the Little Terns’ breeding season.

Strong winds and high tides resulted in part of the colony being inundated with the loss of about 10 nests and 2 chicks.  The electric fence had to be switched off for removing debris washed in by the sea and for other maintenance but, due to the efficient work of the tern wardens, everything was working again by 30 June.

It is estimated that on the 30th there were 30-35 active nests and at least 5 small chicks.

By the end of June a pair of Oystercatchers, which nested on the beach, had hatched 3 chicks and a pair of Ringed Plovers was seen with a chick inside the electric fence.

A pair of Avocets has recently hatched 4 chicks on the tern raft and there may be another pair still incubating.  The pair of Black-headed Gulls remains and there may be a pair of Common Terns.

During the weekend of 8-9th July an estimated 35-40 Little Tern chicks were present in the colony with 20-25 eggs still to hatch.  27 chicks, most of which were 1-3 days old, were fitted with rings.

Three Ringed Plover nests were also found and four chicks belonging to two different broods were also seen.

To 9th July there was little evidence of any trouble from potential predators.

The protection afforded to the Beacon Lagoons Little Tern colony through wardening and electric fencing has recently been shown to be of great value as two major colonies of Little Terns elsewhere, in County Durham and Suffolk, have suffered substantial losses due to egg thieves and vandalism.

Beacon Lagoons – the 2017 breeding season so far – David Constantine

This season is already looking more promising for the Little Tern colony at Beacon Lagoons after last year’s very poor results.

Up to 77 Little Terns have been counted at the colony and at least 13 pairs are incubating eggs.

The Spurn Bird Observatory continues to manage the protection of the colony.  This year’s wardens are Dan Woollard and Mick Turton.

The protective electric fence was erected with the help of volunteers from RSPB Old Moor and the replacement of some strainer posts was carried out by Tony Cook Ltd.

In 2015 the four tern rafts were occupied by nesting Avocets but last year the rafts were left out of water and these birds had to be content with breeding on the new Kilnsea Wetlands.

This year the rafts were repositioned in the lagoon near the tern colony with the hope of attracting terns to use them.  They were occupied by Avocets the next day!

So far, 14 pairs of Avocets have nested on the rafts with eight pairs already producing between one and four chicks.

The Avocets have been joined by a pair of Black headed Gulls which moved to the raft from Kilnsea Wetlands where their first nest was predated.

While these birds will deter the terns from using the rafts, they are very vigilant and their presence near the tern colony will help to deter potential predators.

One pair of Oystercatchers is currently incubating eggs and there are two more pairs in the area along with several Ringed Plovers.


Slender Trefoil is listed in the East Riding of Yorkshire Rare Plants Register as being recorded in only five places, including at Ivy House in 2012. It was found growing in a crack in the concrete near the tool shed door but succumbed to a dose of weed killer later that year, and was not seen again until June 5th 2017, this time in relative safety on the car park.

This very tiny plant may be more widespread than has been historically recorded. Not many people look for wild flowers so small and if they do, may easily mis-record their finding as Small Trefoil. The distinction between the two depends largely on microscopic features, the most distinctive being the scattering of red dots on the surface of Slender Trefoil leaves. For anyone wishing to look this up in their books the scientific name is Trifolium micranthum.

The photograph shows the size of the plant and flowers relative to a match head. The pea-flower like flowers are just emerging from their white calyces and as an idea of size of individual flowers, the ‘flower’ nearest the match head is a cluster of three!

Open Day

The SHCS will be holding their annual Open Day on Saturday, 13th June 2015 at Ivy House, Hollym.

We have already had several fantastic local crafts people book their stands for the event and would particularly like to invite any groups/organisations with a wildlife/countryside conservation theme to contact us to book your free stand as soon as possible.

For any further information, please contact us via the website, for the attention of Louise. Early booking is recommended.


The SHCS’s Executive Committee underwent its usual annual nomination and election process at the AGM in October, as laid down in our Constitution.

The only position not filled this time was the role of Chairman, but the position of Vice Chairman was taken by Louise Drewery who has been on the Committee for several years and, as well as running the Society website, also helps out with the Young Nats.

After 12 years as Chairman, Peter now returns as a Committee member.

Pauline Bursell remains as Treasurer and Freddy Kennedy remains as General Secretary – both of whom do a fantastic job.

We had to say a sad goodbye to two long standing members who retired as valued Committee Members, Anne and Reg Fisher.

Anne was also our Programme Secretary and organised many fantastic speakers. We wish them both well in their retirement from the Committee and look forward to seeing them at our open meetings.
At the AGM, we welcomed a new face on to the Committee, Clive Dennison. Clive has done a lot of work on our reserves for many years and it’s great to have him on board.

Here’s looking forward to 2013 with such a fantastic Committee in place …
The photograph shows Peter Cook awarded with a cut glass piece engraved with the words ‘To Peter Cook MBE in appreciation of 12 years invaluable work as Chairman of the South Holderness Countryside Society – October 2012’.

Many thanks to Philip Appleyard for allowing us to use his photograph.