One of our smallest and most elegant seabirds has broken recent breeding records at its sole South West England stronghold on Chesil Beach with up to 73 chicks taking to the skies.

Thirty-eight pairs of little terns bred on Chesil Beach’s pebbles this summer, and up to 73 chicks fledged, a recent record number of young for the colony and making it one of the most successful sites in UK.

Photo 1: Little Tern Chick by John Dadds

Volunteers have once again played a key role in the Little Tern Recovery Project’s success, with 56 people devoting hours of their time to watching nests, and helping make sure the vulnerable birds were not disturbed by passers-by, pets, or predators.

Helen Booker speaking for RSPB said: “It’s been a great year, and we’re all delighted with how the chicks have done. In total 77 hatched and up to 73 fledged, so over the summer we only lost four chicks.

“It just goes to show that with the right amount of management and the support of our dedicated team of volunteers these birds can succeed. We really believe they are now well on the way to recovery on this wonderful part of the Dorset coast.”

Photo 2: Little Tern Waters monitoring the site by Angela Thomas, Assistant Warden, Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve

Chesil is South West England’s only little tern colony and as recently as the late 1990s as many as 100 pairs bred there. The number dipped to only ten pairs in 2008 and the colony’s productivity this summer is the result of eight years hard work by organisations involved in the Little Recovery Tern Project.

Jane White from Portland Court Leet, project partners who have offered further vital funding for next year's season, said: “We are really proud to be able to support this successful project that is really helping these amazing seabirds to make a strong recovery on the Fleet. There is still a lot to do though and the project will need continued support to build upon this success.”

One of the smallest seabirds, the little tern, which migrates to Africa in the autumn before returning in the spring, has been in decline because of predation, food shortages and extreme weather conditions. It is on the UK’s amber list of birds of conservation concern – the second highest category.

Photo 3: Little tern adults by Angela ThomasAssistant Warden, Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve

Protecting Chesil’s little terns has been made possible by a coalition of organisations including the RSPB, Chesil Bank and Fleet Nature Reserve, Natural England, The Crown Estate, Portland Court Leet, and the Dorset Wildlife Trust.  

** We’d like to say a massive thank you to Angela Thomas, Assistant Warden, Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve., for her incredible help throughout the project and her amazing photos.

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