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Bumper breeding year for rare seabird in Northumberland

Last modified: 01 September 2014

Little terns in nest

Nesting little terns are very vulnerable to rising sea levels, predation and human disturbance.

Image: RSPB - Morgan Vaughan

A rare seabird has enjoyed its most successful breeding season for two decades in Northumberland.

This year, 89 little tern chicks fledged along the Northumberland coast at the National Trust’s Long Nanny site in Beadnell Bay and Natural England’s Lindisfarne national nature reserve.

Little terns arrive in the UK from Africa each spring to nest on beaches and are very vulnerable to rising sea levels, predation and human disturbance. 

The success of this year’s season was largely due to the dedicated seasonal rangers and volunteers who patrolled the beaches from Druridge Bay to Berwick. These hardy souls gave a much-needed helping hand to these shore birds, scaring off predators and preventing human disturbance. 

Other shore birds have also benefitted from this work, with ringed plovers – a small wading bird - having a particularly productive season.

Natural England and The National Trust have been working to protect little terns in Northumberland for many years. However, this year saw the launch of the Northumberland Little Tern Project, a five-year project funded by EU LIFE+, which has enabled these organisations to step up their important work for these endangered seabirds.

A partnership between the National Trust, Nature England, the RSPB and the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, the Northumberland Little Tern Project is providing funding for extra seasonal staff, as well as additional fencing to enclose established and potential nesting areas.

The Long Nanny tern site is also supported by the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign

The Northumberland Little Tern Project is one of 11 initiatives across the UK, which together, form the EU LIFE Little Tern Recovery Project.

Other sites involved in the national Little Tern Recovery Project have also had a good season, including Crimdon Dene in County Durham, where 94 chicks successfully fledged. 

Andrew Craggs, Senior Reserve Manager for Lindisfarne national nature reserve, said: “We’ve had a great year for all our shorebirds from terns to oystercatchers. Using experience we already had in abundance from years of managing for little terns we’ve been able to work together elsewhere on the coast; it’s an example of true partnership working.”

Kevin Redgrave, Ranger for the National Trust, said: “It was a great season - good weather and few predators all made a difference. The brilliant team of rangers and volunteers we had this year also helped to give us the man power to protect little terns at Long Nanny.”

Mhairi Maclauchlan, EU+ Life Little Tern Project Co-ordinator, said: “We have been excited to help enhance the great work already going on for little terns at places such as Long Nanny and Lindisfarne. It seems to be paying off.

“However, we are painfully aware of how easy a good year can be followed by a bad one as little terns are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and bad weather events. This is why we will be continuing to work hard to protect these birds over the next four years of the project and beyond.” 

For more information on the EU LIFE Little Tern Recovery Project, please visit