Rare little terns that nest on Chesil Beach in Dorset are to be protected with funding from The Crown Estate and Portland Court Leet.

Conservationists are looking forward to another successful year for the little terns breeding on Chesil Beach after The Crown Estate extended its funding for another year through its Marine Stewardship Fund. This funding has been matched by The Portland Court Leet.

The project to restore the colony to its breeding peak of 100 pairs is managed by the RSPB and is also supported by Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the EU PANACHE Interreg Project.

To date the recovery project, which started in 2009, has seen breeding pairs more than double to 25 and last year saw an unprecedented 30 fledglings leave the beach. This increased success was largely down to the introduction of sand patches for the birds to nest on, which make for a much cosier nest and vastly reduce the amount of eggs that have chilled in recent years due to the poor weather conditions.

Gary Thompson Coastal Manager at The Crown Estate said: “The little tern breeding project has grown from strength to strength over the term of the programme years contributing greatly to the native seabird population on the Dorset coast. We are delighted our sustained support through the Marine Stewardship Fund has helped the RSPB continue with this important work”.

Philip George, bailiff to the Court Leet said: “As stewards of the common land on which the terns nest, we feel this project is well worth supporting. We want to help preserve these rare birds for ecological reasons and for the enjoyment of the beach users.”

Morgan Vaughan (RSPB Project Officer) said; “The little terns migrate from the West African coast to breed in Britain but are threatened by a number of factors such habitat loss, rising sea levels and predation. They are also very susceptible to changing weather conditions which can have a noted impact on breeding success. As the only colony of little terns in the south west of England, helping guarantee the security of the Chesil breeding site through the project, which includes electric fencing, makes all the difference in fledging success for the little tern, one of the UK's rarest seabirds. Another major factor in the terns' success has been the implementation of round the clock wardening. This is vital to minimize disturbance from predators and people who unwittingly might stray too close to these ground nesting birds.”

The 24 hour wardening has only been possible due to additional support from a team of local volunteers who in 2013 carried out over 1000 hours of wardening during the two month breeding season. With the fantastic results last year, it is hoped that with the continued efforts from this dedicated team the success can be replicated. Now more volunteers are needed to warden the colony to replace those that are no longer able to help.

Anyone who is interested in getting involved in this worthwhile and exciting work this season is invited to attend a meeting at the Chesil Beach Centre on Thursday 15th May at 7pm (parking permits available). They can also contact Morgan by emailing (morgan.vaughan@rspb.org.uk) or by calling 07590 441414.

Emily Brown from Dorset Wildlife Trust at the Chesil Beach Centre added: “The project is also holding a fundraising evening for the Little Tern project at the Chesil Beach Centre on Thursday 5th June at 7 pm. There will be talks from experts, live footage of the birds, a wildlife promises auction, raffle, guess the number of Little Tern eggs and much more. Tickets are £12 per person and include buffet food from Taste Café. Please phone 01305 206191 to book.”