Although only a minor part of the work we do here on the Langstone and Chichester Harbour RSPB reserves, the provision of nesting rafts for common terns at West Hayling is one of my favourite seabird conservation projects.  In a world where 70% of seabirds have been lost since just 1950 and widescale changes are urgently needed, it's a reminder that even small projects to provide nesting habitat can make a big impact on a local level.  

As previously recorded on this blog, thanks to broader conservation work and the launch of a specially designed nesting raft, 2017 saw a transformation in the fortune of common terns breeding at the West Hayling Local Nature Reserve (and as a result, Langstone Harbour) after years of failure.  Having set that precedent, we cautiously started 2018 with the hope that something even more important could be achieved, a second year of back to back success.  It's now my pleasure to update you on the details of how this years breeding season not only repeated this success, but significantly surpassed it, seeing the highest number of common tern fledglings here for almost a decade! 

Above: A great year for tern chicks but a busy one for their parents (click for full resolution).

As always, the seabird breeding season in Langstone Harbour began with Black-headed Gulls forming territories on the shingle and salt marsh islands early in the spring.  After a near complete absence of gulls on the colony sites all winter, the noisy cacophony returned with the first sunny day in late February.  The business of finding (or re-finding) a mate, building a seaweed lined nest on the shingle and setting up for the season ahead began in earnest and by the time our migratory common terns arrived back in the harbour in mid April, they were greeted with this familiar sight: