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Things take a 'tern' for the better at local reserve

Last modified: 14 October 2014

Volunteers at Turn Island

Volunteers helping to transform the tern nesting island

Image: The RSPB

Visitors to a northeast nature reserve this summer were treated to views of fluffy common tern chicks as they thrived there for the first time in years, RSPB Scotland announced today.

Seabirds in other parts of Scotland seem to have had better breeding success this year driven by an apparent increase in food availability. However, this year’s success at Loch of Strathbeg is due to major DIY improvements achieved last winter and some new homes provided by a generous donation from international energy company TAQA, who are based in Westhill, Aberdeenshire.

Richard Humpidge is Site Manager for RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. He said: “In April this year, with the help of TAQA and Crimond Primary School we launched some new tern rafts—floating islands that are designed to provide a secure place for terns to raise their chicks. They have been remarkably successful!”

Richard added: “We did a lot of work last winter to the main nesting island in front of the visitor centre too. We flattened the profile, removed vegetation, and topped it with around 10 tons of gravel that we ferried over by boat! We also put up an otter proof fence to give the chicks the best possible chance of survival. It was made possible thanks to hundreds of hours of hard work by volunteers, particularly members of the Aberdeen and District RSPB local group.”

“Without the generosity of TAQA and the volunteers, the terns wouldn’t have done as well as they have this year. We really couldn’t have done it without them and we couldn’t be happier!”

This year around 60 pairs of terns nested on the island, up from 11 pairs last year, and each pair successfully raised two or three chicks. An additional 10 pairs nested on the new tern rafts and they raised 24 chicks.

Lucy Buglass, Chair of TAQA’s Community Relations Committee, helped to launch the rafts back in April. She said: “It’s great to see what TAQA’s support has been able to achieve and we’re thrilled that the tern rafts have been such a success. We recognise that, as well as being one of the best places for wildlife in the UK, the Loch of Strathbeg is also a fantastic educational and community resource enjoyed by many so hopefully the terns will encourage even more people to visit the reserve and learn about the fantastic array of wildlife that can be found there”.

Both the young terns and their parents have left the reserve and headed south; they will travel nearly 3000 miles to their winter homes in West Africa. In spring, they’ll make the return journey and hopes are high at the reserve that next year will be another good year.

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