A good tern for rare seabirds
Tuesday 2nd May 2017
The Chesil Beach Little Tern Project is this week appealing for volunteers to help protect little terns this spring.
For eight years a partnership of organisations have worked together to help the Chesil Beach little tern colony, which had dropped in size from 100 pairs in 1997 to just 10 in 2008. Little terns are graceful seabirds that migrate from Africa to breed on UK beaches in summer. They have started to return to Chesil Beach, the UK’s most south westerly colony.
Emily Brown, Weymouth and Portland Visitor Experience Officer for Dorset Wildlife Trust, says:
‘Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in helping these rare little birds, which breed right on our doorstep here in Weymouth and Portland. The Chesil Little Tern Project is a great example of conservation organisations, landowners and the local community working together to protect this important but vulnerable seabird colony. Volunteers play a vital role in the project; protecting the birds from disturbance and predators, whilst monitoring their progress. And it’s a great chance to spend a few hours in a stunning location with these charismatic little birds.’
Although they are showing signs of recovery here at Chesil Beach, little terns still only number 1,900 pairs in the UK and are declining nationally. Each year they return to breed in small colonies on beaches, facing threats from foxes, crows, kestrels and other predators, as well as accidental disturbance from beach users.
The Chesil beach site is fenced off during the breeding season and wardened twenty four hours a day by a dedicated team comprised almost entirely of volunteers, protecting the birds from predators and human disturbance. All this passion and hard work is really paying off, and the number of little terns breeding here is increasing each year.
RSPB Little Tern Project Officer Scarlett Hutchin says:
‘Last year was the most successful since the start of this partnership project, with 39 pairs nesting and an amazing 71 chicks fledged. By using effective methods developed over years of experience and constantly testing new ways to help the little terns at Chesil, we hope to build on this success each year going forward.’
‘This project would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of volunteer Little Tern Wardens, who are absolutely essential to its success. We are looking for anyone who can spare some time this summer and would like to help make a real difference to the conservation of these brilliant little birds. Most of our volunteers spend a four hour shift on the beach once or twice a week from late May to the end of July. If you are interested in being part of this inspiring species recovery project please get in touch or simply come along to our pre-season meeting to find out more.’
Find out more
If you would like to help, why not come along to the volunteer pre-season meeting which is being held at the Chesil Beach Centre on Tuesday 9th May at 7pm or contact Scarlett, RSPB Little Tern Project Officer at Scarlett.Hutchin@rspb.org.uk or on 07590 441414.
For further information, images and to arrange an interview please contact:
Tony Whitehead, RSPB, 07872 414365
Sally Wellbourn, Dorset Wildlife Trust, 01305 217982
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