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Little terns make a comeback on Chesil Beach
1:02pm Thursday 3rd October 2013 in News
LITTLE terns have made a comeback on Chesil Beach thanks to a helping hand from wildlife experts.
The seabirds have had an excellent breeding season this year, after numbers fell to as few as ten breeding pairs in the late 1990s.
The colony on Chesil Beach is the only one in south west England.
John Dadds, RSPB species protection officer, said: “Little terns have been nesting on Chesil Beach for a long time. Back in the late 1990s we had around 100 pairs breeding at Chesil, which at the time was five percent of the UK population. However, following persistent breeding failures, within a decade this had fallen to just ten pairs."
When populations of birds fall to low numbers, disturbance and predation can become a problem. So, in response the RSPB and its partners set up the current protection scheme in 2009 to exclude predators from the colony and reduce disturbance as much as possible.
Mr Dadds added: “This has paid off, and the colony is on the increase again. However, watching the birds closely, day in day out, I realised that the birds might have another problem. Most terns nest on sandy beaches but Chesil Beach is made of big pebbles. These pebbles allow the wind to whip through and chill the eggs and youngsters. With the run of cold summer weather we have had, the hatching rate has been very low.
“So I had the idea of putting small patches of sand on the beach, sunken into the pebbles in ordinary hanging basket liners. This would give extra insulation and give the terns a warmer, less draughty, place to settle in to.
Figures from the RSPB show that there were 25 breeding pairs in the Chesil Beach colony this year, compared with 21 last year and 18 in 2011.
An average of 1.2 chicks per nest survived to fledge, the best recorded figure since the 1970s.
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