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Spectacular seabird spectacle at Preston Marina

Last modified: 14 May 2015

Common tern nest at Preston Marina

Common terns nesting in a recycled tyre at Preston Marina.

Image: Paul Ellis

Hundreds of seabirds are arriving at Preston Marina for the breeding season after making the epic journey from West Africa.

Over the next few months, the breakwaters around the Marina will be teeming with common terns as they attempt to nest on the surrounding breakwaters. Nicknamed sea swallows, these charismatic birds are admired for their graceful flight.

The RSPB is giving visitors the opportunity to get to know the charismatic seabirds with a series of tern-watching events starting on Saturday 23 May. Staff and volunteers from the nature conservation organisation will be on hand with powerful telescopes, offering close up views of the fast and agile birds.

Calum Booth, RSPB Marine Conservation Officer for North West England, is organising the events. He said:“Common terns are fascinating birds to see in action, whether it’s looking at the cute fluffy chicks in their nest or watching their speedy parents outmanoeuvre piratical gulls trying to steal their dinner.”   

Common terns have tried to nest on the breakwaters around the marina since 2009 but, initially, a lack of suitable nest materials hampered their success. 

Contrary to what their name might suggest, common terns have been in long-term decline and are classed as a species of conservation concern.

Keen to give the birds the best chance of nesting success, in 2011 the Fylde Bird Club teamed up with Preston City Council and created numerous artificial nests by placing recycled tyres and gravel on the breakwaters. In 2012, the RSPB joined the partnership and has actively supported the project ever since.

Over the last two years, Fylde Bird Club also has been working with pupils and staff at Saint Aidan’s Church of England Technology College, Preesall, to create purpose-built tern nest boxes. These provide tern eggs and chicks with shelter and protection from predators.

Deputy Headteacher, Anthony Lord, said: "This has been an excellent project to be part of.  The students can't wait to see the birds actually settled on the boxes on site."

 By providing safe places to nest, the number of terns breeding at the marina has gone from two pairs in 2009 to more than 140 in 2014.

Paul Ellis of the Fylde Bird Club, added:“Preston Marina offers an unsurpassed opportunity to see these birds at close quarters and watch all the drama of life in the colony. Last year the colony increased by 20% and two pairs of arctic terns joined the common terns. However, available nest material still limited their numbers.

“This year 106 new nest trays have been provided and we are hoping these will allow even more birds to join the colony.  If they continue to have good breeding success the population could eventually exceed 200 pairs.

“Once again, Preston City Council deserves high praise for supporting this project and we are very grateful to Saint Aidan’s Technology College for assisting by making nest trays.”

Preston City Councillor Robert Boswell, Cabinet member for environment, said: “This is a very important project for the council to be involved in. It’s fantastic news that the numbers of common tern pairs are growing year on year. Hopefully this can carry on with the efforts of the RSPB and Fylde Bird Club, we owe them a big thank you. I would urge people to get to one of the events and see these fascinating birds.”

The RSPB will be running common tern events at Preston Marina on the following dates: Sat 23 May, Sat 6 June, Sun 21 June, Wed 8 July, Wed 22 July, Thu 6 August, Fri 21 August. The free events run from 10 am to 4 pm. Visitors are free to drop by at any time. The events will take place in the long car park on Mariners Way. 

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From scrub bashing to guided walks, the RSPB run events all around the UK

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