Record number of nesting terns

PUBLISHED: 07:22 23 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:04 22 October 2010

Yarmouth has added another spectacular attraction to its seafront medley of arcades, donkeys and sandcastles.

Yarmouth has added another spectacular attraction to its seafront medley of arcades, donkeys and sandcastles.

For the resort's most loyal trippers - little terns - have excelled themselves, coming in greater numbers than ever more.

This year the nest count at North Denes has topped 363 - smashing all previous totals since records began 21 years ago.

The number of pairs to settle has never before exceeded 300. The previous highest was 277 pairs in 1991.

The astounding sight of close to 700 birds flitting in and out of the water is delighting wardens who are anxiously awaiting the first hatchings next week.

RSPB spokesman Chris Durdin said the huge increase in numbers made it the biggest ever gathering of the rare seabird in Britain.

But he warned the colony had a treacherous record. High tides, predators and vandals had all taken their toll in the past and on one occasion a single hedgehog had destroyed 200 nests.

Mr Durdin said 2003 was a good year for the birds when 233 pairs fledged 447 chicks at Winterton. Those fledglings are now adults and appear to have swelled the colony, he added.

He said: "It is a reflection of how well they did at Winterton the other year and also the longevity of little terns. There are some ringed birds that show they can live for a decade or more."

Night watches have so far been successful in keeping out predators. There are around 2,000 little tern pairs in the UK with Great Yarmouth boasting an increasingly significant slice of the population.

Mr Durdin added: "As a spectacle it will be great for the next two or three weeks.

"It is a wonderful sight and the hustle and bustle will increase when the youngsters appear. The people of Yarmouth have been very welcoming. It is very easy to forget how extraordinary it is to have this nesting site within sight of the Golden Mile. It's another reason to visit Great Yarmouth and helps to broaden the resort's appeal."

The protection scheme is run in partnership with English Nature and Yarmouth borough council, who have provided funding. The project has also received funding this year from Yarmouth's local strategic partnership.

A guided walk of the breeding colony takes place on Sunday July 2. To book call 01603 715191. Adults £3, children £1 concs for RSPB members.

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