Endangered seabird enjoys a little tern for the better

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

This year, 89 little tern chicks fledged 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, scaring off predators and preventing human disturbance.

Other shore birds have also benefitted from this work, with ringed plovers having a particularly good 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 them to step up their work.

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

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.”

But she added: “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.”

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