Campers bid to tern seabird’s fortunes

One of the wardens who is camping on the Northumberland coast to protect Little Terns, watching the Long Nanny site.

One of the wardens who is camping on the Northumberland coast to protect Little Terns, watching the Long Nanny site.

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Dedicated conservationists are camping out on the coast in a bid to improve the breeding success of one of the UK’s

rarest seabirds.

A team of hardy souls is braving the Northumberland weather and forgoing creature comforts to protect little terns as they attempt to nest on beaches from Beadnell Bay to Lindisfarne.

Little terns return to the UK each spring from West Africa, but are finding it increasingly difficult to breed, with only around 1,500 pairs nesting at fewer than 60 sites around the country.

Nesting on beaches, they are vulnerable to rising sea levels, high tides and predators. They can also be disturbed accidently by beach users who are unaware of their presence.

In a bid to improve breeding success, a five-strong team of National Trust assistant rangers is providing 24-hour nest protection at the Long Nanny little tern colony near Beadnell.

“Little tern wardening is a very basic experience,” admits assistant ranger Wynona Legg. “We are living here in a tent for three months so we’ve got no electricity or running water. Bear Gryllis would definitely approve.

“However, it is well worth the hardship as we are living in a beautiful location looking after these amazing birds that desperately need a helping hand.”

Based along the Northumberland coast, wardens give little terns the best chance of survival by protecting their nests and talking to local beach users about the birds.

The nest protection work forms part of the Northumberland Little Tern Project, a five-year initiative aimed at helping breeding little terns on the Northumberland coast through nest protection and raising public awareness of their plight.

The project has also been involved in the erection of fences around existing and potential nesting sites. These warn beach users such as dog walkers of the birds’ presence, as well as keeping out predators including foxes and badgers.

The project is generously supported by Carrs Billington of Berwick which has supplied the fencing at a significantly reduced rate and provided lots of free help and expertise.

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