A tern for the better, as Blakeney has successful breeding season

Little Tern. Picture: Ian Ward

Little Tern. Picture: Ian Ward - Credit: Archant

It's been a successful Little Tern breeding season at north Norfolk's Blakeney national nature reserve with 56 chicks fledged, which is the largest amount since 2011.

Little Tern. Picture: Ian Ward

Little Tern. Picture: Ian Ward - Credit: Archant

These dainty little seabirds, the smallest of all the terns, migrate from Africa each year to nest in coastal locations all around the UK.

Sadly, they are a declining species facing many challenges including climate change, loss of habitat, food availability and disturbance.

The National Trust is a partner in an RSPB-led EU Life project that aims to focus efforts in reversing the decline of this protected species.

Four years into this five-year project and the Little Terns have had an outstanding season on Blakeney Point.

National Trust ranger Ajay Tegala said they nest in three to five different locations on Blakeney Point, with the largest being the colony by the Watch House.

He said: 'The colony on the main shingle ridge by the Watch House is by far the least vulnerable to tidal flooding. This makes it the most suitable place on the reserve for these elegant seabirds to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.'

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A lot of effort has been put into protecting this part of the beach with fence lines placed around sensitive areas during the breeding season.

The birds are monitored on a daily basis and volunteer Bill Landells said: 'This is the most productive season for many years and may have been even better, if it wasn't for the tidal storm surge in June that sadly wiped out the nests on the far tip of Blakeney Point.

'Thankfully, the main colony close to the Watch House is beyond the reach of all but exceptional high tides, which are rare in the summer breeding season.'

With other breeding sites in Norfolk suffering tidal flooding, Blakeney saw a late arrival of birds as they made a second attempt at nesting.

Mr Tegala added: 'Seeing the adorable chicks take their first flights is incredibly rewarding. Some years the team put in a huge amount of effort and time only to see nests get flooded, buried in wind-blown sand or the chicks die of starvation.'