Volunteers needed to protect rare seabirds in Northumberland

A little tern and chicks
A little tern and chicks
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A Northumberland bird protection scheme is looking for volunteers to help vulnerable nesting shorebirds this summer.

The plea has come from the Northumberland Little Tern Project which protects endangered little terns, ringed plovers and oystercatchers.

Little terns spend their winter on the west coast of Africa and return to our coastline at the end of April. These rare birds nest on the beach along with other shorebirds and are very susceptible to disturbance.

In Northumberland, little terns are predominantly found on the National Trust Long Nanny site at Beadnell beach and Natural England’s Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (NNR), which stretches from Budle Bay to Berwick.

The Northumberland Little Tern Project is a partnership between the National Trust, Natural England, RSPB and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which provides additional funding to the sites that Natural England and the National Trust have been protecting for many years. With this support, extra seasonal staff help protect the sites, provide new information signs and additional fencing to enclose nesting areas.

Chantal Macleod-Nolan, EU LIFE Little Tern Project co-ordinator, said: “Last year, we had a really good outcome with 44 pairs of little terns nesting on the Northumberland coast and 52 chicks fledging by the end of the season.

"The terns had a difficult summer with high tides, human disturbance and persistent predators, and only persevered due to the continued efforts of nine staff and a team of 20 dedicated volunteers working around the clock across both sites. Without this hard-working team, we wouldn’t be able to protect these birds and as a result, volunteer recruitment is crucial to the little tern’s breeding success again this summer.”

Volunteers are essential for the protection of our breeding shorebirds, as engaging beach-users about the significance of the fenced off areas and the importance for dog-walkers to keep their dogs on leads makes a huge difference to the breeding success of these small visitors. The observational research data collected by these volunteers also contributes to a wider national shorebird protection scheme, with the information used to further the protection of these sensitive birds.

The enthusiastic team of wardens and volunteers monitor the shorebirds throughout the breeding season and raise public awareness, all while enjoying the stunning Northumberland coast.

The Northumberland Little Tern Project is hosting a volunteer information meeting on Friday, April 22, between 10.30am and 12.30pm at the National Trust Office, Low Newton by the Sea. (Directions: Take a left after the Tin Church, Newton Point, Alnwick, NE66 3EL.)

To book a place, email northumberlandlittleterns@gmail.com or call Natural England on 01289 381470 or the National Trust on 01665 576874.

The Northumberland Little Tern Project is one of 11 initiatives across the UK, which together form the EU LIFE Little Tern Recovery Project. This also includes a project in County Durham to protect the little tern colony at Crimdon Dene.This EU LIFE funded UK-wide Project - involving 10 partners - will lay the foundations for the long-term recovery of the little tern in the UK by increasing numbers of breeding pairs and productivity, identifying long-term plans for conservation and increasing public awareness and support.