It's Warden Wednesday, so here's an update from our Warden, Craig, on what his team has been up to recently to get ready for the seabird season:

The warden team have been busy installing bamboo canes on our seabird rafts across the reserve, in an attempt to help some of our breeding seabirds.

 

David Tipling (rspb-images.com)

RPSB Dungeness is a really important area for breeding seabirds, which nest at different times of year and have different breeding habits. Some, such as common tern, prefer to nest in a close-knit colonies, whereas others, such as herring gull, prefer to nest on their own – ideally on their own island or raft if they can. So it’s quite a challenging balancing act to ensure there is sufficient habitat and everything prospers!

 

Common tern are Amber listed and herring gulls are Red listed, which reflects how much their populations have declined over the last few decades, so it’s really important that we provide plenty of habitat for both species along with many other gulls and hopefully other terns too.

We have lots of islands across Burrowes Pit for our nesting seabirds, but to make sure we always have some nesting space above the water level we also use seabird nesting rafts. What we’ve found in previous years is that some of the larger gulls nest far earlier than terns, and they set up their territories a month or two before the terns arrive back for the spring. When the gulls do this they tend to put off other species such as terns from nesting – even though there is plenty of space! An idea that has been trialled successfully as part of the Roseate Tern EU LIFE project is using canes to prevent large gulls nesting in certain areas, to keep them free for the terns. If the canes are placed close enough together they prevent gulls from landing, but the more agile terns can happily land with no problems. We are certainly hoping that herring gull nest successfully again, and that by moving where suitable habitat is for them it will lead to the large gulls nesting on the islands rather than the rafts, helping to create space for everyone.

Whether its gulls or terns, we are certainly looking forward to the sights and sounds of our seabird colony returning in spring.

Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

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