Denbighshire fundamental to little tern survival in UK
The little tern – one of our rarest and smallest breeding seabirds – nests on open sand and shingle beaches around our coasts between May and August each year. Monitoring of the birds across the UK showed that their numbers had declined by almost a fifth since 2000 due to reduced breeding success and to the many threats they are exposed to on our beaches. A funding bid, with the RSPB as lead partner, was successful and began in September 2013.
In mid-November a national conference was held in Norwich to celebrate the success of the five year EU-funded project to protect little terns – the UK’s second rarest sea bird. The ‘EU Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project’ is a partnership project with 11 organisations (including Natural England, the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and several AONBs) and is 50% match funded.
Susan Rendell-Read, the RSPB’s little tern project manager said: “We achieved what we set out to do laying the foundations for long-term recovery but the future for little terns is by no means secure. Further funding is urgently needed to build on the lessons learned over the past five years and to make sure that our coasts remain a welcoming place for this wonderful seabird.”
Adrian Hibbert, spoke on behalf of Denbighshire Countryside Service at the conference event and added “One of the sites that benefitted greatly from this project was the nature reserve at Gronant Dunes. This summer saw 171 breeding pairs of little tern, the most ever recorded at Gronant. Looking at current trends it could soon accommodate one-tenth of the UK breeding population in a few years time. This is fantastic news and we should be very proud that Denbighshire are helping to lead the way to their recovery.
Little terns do not have an easy time and Storm Hector caused a lot of damage this year. Despite this, here on the Welsh coast, the birds recovered and fledged a remarkable 192 chicks. Predators were kept at bay with more electric fencing to stop foxes and the diversionary feeding of kestrels working extremely well. We also trialled laser hazing for the first time and that deterred crows at the start of the season. More eggs and chicks would definitely have been lost without intervention.
With a grant bid to the Welsh Government not decided until March then it will be a long wait to see if the same level of protection can be given next season. The North Wales Little Tern Group though has reached 200 paid members this year so one positive in the fight to help this endangered seabird.