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A fantastic "tern around" in the fortunes of Langstone Harbour's little terns in 2014

Last modified: 31 July 2014

Little tern at nest, stretching wings

Image: Chris Gomersall

It’s been a record year for the little terns at Langstone Harbour in Hampshire with at least 28 chicks fledging on the RSPB reserve’s shingle nesting areas on the Solent.
In the last two years there has only been one chick raised and high tides and food shortages devastated the little terns when the chicks were young and vulnerable. Smaller numbers of adult  little terns were returning to :Langstone Harbour each year.

Over the last two years RSPB staff have worked hard to build up the shingle spits before the migrating birds returned to the area in the spring from Africa. This helped the little terns’ nests survive this year and they did not lose any to the sea.

Dwindling fish supplies were also a cause for concern this year but the adults managed to feed themselves adequately and made sure their chicks got a good start in life.
 “In 1989 there were 171 pairs of little terns recorded as breeding in Langstone Harbour, a number that has gradually been falling ever since as (mostly human originated) problems beset the colony year after year,” said Wez Smith, the warden at RSPB Langstone Harbour.
“By 2014 we had reached a low ebb and only 32 pairs of little terns came to the harbour to breed (the third lowest number ever recorded).  It's against this backdrop that this year’s success can really be appreciated,” Wez added.

“This year there has been a drop in the amount of disturbance by harbour users, which has also been very helpful to the little terns as it means that they were able to spend more time sitting on the nests keeping the eggs warm and hunting for food for their youngsters,” Wez said. 
“There were no cases of illegal disturbance of the colony during the breeding season either this year.”
Electric fences have kept out foxes who eat little tern chicks and take eggs, and the installation of a camera which is regularly monitored aims to act as a deterrent to anyone considering disturbing the colony.
“The key now is consistently delivering sustainable productivity levels,” Wez said.  “At present, due to the funding over the last few years and effort of many people, the Langstone Harbour little tern colony is in as good a position to do this as it can be.” 

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