Thursday, 4 September 2014

4th September: Little Tern project update from Mhairi

Shore enough, it's been a great year for our shorebirds!

I promised an update from the project and here it is – there’s great news. Little Terns have had a record breaking season this year on the Northumberland coast, the continued efforts from us here at Natural England at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve have certainly helped their success. As we’ve been letting you know throughout the season there has been a funding injection this year from EU Life which enabled organisations all along the coast to step up their important work protecting and encoraging these endangered seabirds.

Adult Little Tern (C. Redgate)

The two main colonies on the Northumberland Coast at Linsdisfarne NNR and Long Nanny, Beadnell Bay, had an exceptional year with just under 90 Little Tern chicks, the U.K’S second rarest seabird, leaving the site to start their long journey south for winter. Wardens at Lindisfarne NNR recorded the most successful year for breeding Little Terns for 20 years.

Success this year was in no doubt greatly helped by the dedication of a hardy band of seasonal rangers and volunteers braving the elements and patrolling the beaches from Druridge Bay to Berwick. The great weather this summer was not only good for BBQ’s and world cup parties - it gave a much needed helping hand to our breeding shore birds giving them the warmth and shelter needed to raise their chicks successfully. 

A big part of protecting shore birds is getting everything in place before the season starts. You may not realise it but wardens have to put up over 1000m of temporary fencing in a short period of time during April and May. Too early and the fences can be damaged by the weather or vandalised, too late and the birds may already be disturbed and moved elsewhere. It’s a big undertaking particularly when some of these places are very remote.

The key word there is temporary and come the end of the season when birds have done their thing and left, the fences have to be brought in. Unfortunately this year high tides battered some of our fencing and created a tangle of nets in such a mess only the hardiest of souls dared to tackle them. Our volunteers spent a good morning untangling the mess – big thanks, it saved a lot of tears and swearing! Tides are a big problem for the Little Tern on another site working with the Little Tern project they pick the birds up on a high tide and shelter them in the wardens hut until it subsides giving them the best chance to survive.

Dedicated volunteers keep a watchful eye on the site

We mustn't forget the valuable work volunteers have been doing all along the coast. They have been out in sunshine and rain, all hours of the day keeping a watchful eye over this vulnerable sea bird – a big thank you goes out to them!

This seems to be a similar story at other sites throughout the UK such as our neighbours down at Crimdon Dene in Durham who also had a great season with a terntastic 94 chicks leaving the nest. Not forgetting other shore birds on the coast that have been benefiting from the increased wardening and fenced of areas free from disturbance. Ringed plovers, a small shore bird known for its distinctive call have increased in number due to the work of the project.

A big thank you to our beach users...we couldn't have done it without you, however continue to look out for signage and keep checking the blog. We’ll be raring to go next season with updates and information.

One of this year's signs at Lindisfarne

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