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Tern for the better as little seabirds make a comeback at Chesil beach
LITTLE terns have made a comeback on Chesil Beach thanks to a helping hand from wildlife experts and volunteers.
The seabirds migrate from Africa to breed at Chesil, which is the only colony in south west England.
Numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years, but the creation of sandy patches to give the birds a warm area to nest has helped survival rates to soar.
RSPB species protection officer John Dadds said: “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 in recent years, the hatching rate has been very low.”
He added: “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 into.”
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.
Foxes, crows, kestrels and accidental disturbance by beach users can all threaten little tern colonies.
In 2009 a protection scheme was set up at the Chesil Beach site to exclude predators and reduce disturbance.
Many of the conservationists who carry out the work are volunteers.
The scheme is run by organisations including the Crown Estate which owns the beach, the Portland Court Leet, Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve, Natural England, MOD, the Dorset Wildlife Trust and RSPB.
Crown Estate marine stewardship manager Fiona Wynne said: “The success of this year’s breeding season is fantastic news and testament to the hard work and dedication of both the professional and volunteer conservationists involved.”
Marc Smith, from the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s been a great year for the little terns. Chesil Beach Centre volunteers and visitors were very lucky this summer as we could watch this wonderful story unfold on our live cameras.
“The team’s hard work and inventive thinking really paid off and we are glad we could offer support through the use of our newly refurbished centre. We are hopeful that this is the turning point for this charismatic little bird which is as much a part of Chesil as the pebbles themselves.”
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