Tara Watson, RSPB Residential Volunteer, gives us the low-down on her experience so far...

So far, volunteering on the Little Tern Project has been a really fulfilling experience. We’re enjoying learning about the fascinating behaviours of little terns and other species, and applying this knowledge to make a positive conservation impact. 

Photo 1: Tara Watson, RSPB Lilttle Tern Project Assistant Volunteer.

One of the most fun aspects of our work is spotting little tern nests. This initially involves looking through a telescope for terns scraping the ground and wiggling their bums when they sit down. Once a potential nest location has been identified, finding it on the ground is more challenging than it first appears, since your perspective from a distance is very different from what you see right by your feet. To overcome this difficulty, we orientate ourselves based on detailed landmarks, like nearby clumps of vegetation and distinctively coloured pebbles. Finding a nest is hugely satisfying, and leaves you eager to find another.  

Photo 2: Rebecca Tanner, Night Warden looking for little tern nests.

Another challenge of our roles is deterring predators – running over shingle is never easy, least of all when you’re trying to chase off agile foxes, or kestrels and crows which have the advantage of wings – but we rise to this challenge because we recognise its importance for conservation. Despite these predators being a problem, they are wonderful creatures to observe carrying out their natural behaviours.  

Photo 3: Alexandros Adamoulas- Night Warden, Little Tern Project

Chesil Beach is a beautiful location. Seeing the sunrise is a lovely way to finish a night shift or start an early morning. Most days we’ve been lucky to have lots of sun and most nights have been dry, but as long as you’ve got plenty of waterproofs and a thermos then it’s worth carrying on through wet and cold weather for the experience of working outdoors. We had a thunderstorm on a recent evening, which some of the night wardens were a little afraid about but mostly thrilled to see the lightning strike around them whilst they sat in our little wooden hide and patrolled the big empty beach. 

The atmosphere of the project is so exciting. Now that eggs have been laid, there’s a building sense of nervous energy, and we’re looking forward to the hatching period with much anticipation.  

Photo 4: Jack Borrett- Night Warden 

The Chesil Beach Little Tern Project is a partnership between RSPB, Natural England, Crown Estate, Portland Court Leet, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Chesil and Fleet Nature Reserve.