Thursday, 4 June 2020

One good Tern deserves a Plover!

With lockdown restrictions easing slightly over the past couple of weeks, it feels a bit like we have skipped spring and emerged straight into summer. Swifts and Swallows are now a regular feature in the skies and Shorebirds have arrived back from their wintering grounds and have been busy setting up breeding territories. For us at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve it is our cue to dust down the protective fencing and signs and install them at several key sites around the Reserve. From now on, until the birds fledge, we will be monitoring the breeding success at these sites. An important job as many shorebirds are considered vulnerable.
Please read all signs when accessing the coastline on the Reserve.
Three species of tern breed on the Reserve; Arctic, Common and the rarest breeding tern – the Little Tern. These tiny birds, weighing about the same as a tennis ball, have returned to Lindisfarne over the last few weeks from their wintering grounds in West Africa. The high pitched calls have joined the summer chorus of breeding birds on the Reserve. Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is a haven for these birds due to the long stretches of soft sandy beaches, perfect for nesting, and the adjacent rich shallow waters of the North Sea. However, Little Terns have declined across the UK due to three main threats; climate change, predation and human and dog disturbance.
Colony nester - Little Terns
Ringed Plovers have also declined by 40% across the UK in just the last 10 years, a figure that is mirrored by several other species of wader. This puts them on the red list, highlighting them amongst the most threatened species in the UK. At Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve we have the most important breeding site for Ringed Plover in the North East but this has declined significantly within the last 40 years. The main reason for this is human and dog disturbance along our increasingly busy coastline.
Ringed Plovers are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance (JJD)
Ringed Plovers are not colony nesters, with nests (a simple cup in the sand) dotted along the coastline. This makes them even more prone to disturbance as people don’t realise the birds are there. They are much more aware of people than people are of them and will retreat long before they reached. Constant disturbance will result in abandonment of the nest.
Ringed Plover nests are just a simple cup in the sand (photo taken under licence)
There are a number of things that you can do to help protect our breeding shorebirds when visiting the Reserve.
  • Keep dogs on a short lead at all times on the Reserve. This includes all beaches from Cheswick to the southern end of Budle Bay.
  • Adhere to seasonal restrictions that are in place.
  • Don’t approach any protective fencing that has been installed – give it a wide berth
  • Walk along the wet sand on beaches – many of the Shorebirds will be nesting in the soft sand above the high tide line
  • Read all signs when entering the Reserve. This will give you specific information about the area of the site you are accessing and any additional restrictions that are in place.
Give restricted areas a wide berth
 We will keep you updated as the season progresses.

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