The little tern is one of the UK's rarest seabirds with an estimated population of only 1,500 pairs. The recent dramatic decline in their population is due to a range of factors including increased human disturbance, loss of nesting habitat, persistent predation and a rise in summer storm surges. The RSPB has been at the forefront of little tern conservation for 50 years and has been instrumental in establishing protection and warden schemes at sites around the UK. It is currently taking the lead in a major new five-year recovery project with funding from the EU Life+ programme (2013 - 2018) which aims to increase the numbers of breeding pairs and their productivity, identify long-term plans for conservation and increase public awareness and support.
“Since the 1970s, wardens have supervised many colonies, which has substantially reduced human disturbance, but more work needs to be done as numbers are still declining.”
EU Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project
In April 2015 I began volunteering with the RSPB as a Little Tern Warden on the east Norfolk coast and experienced for the first time the trials and tribulations of a tern colony. In true little tern fashion it was an unpredictable year with the main colony abandoning the site early in the season. When at last we discovered where they had fled to we followed them to their new sites and continued our round-the-clock surveillance.
From apparent disaster, not to speak of the cold, wet, windy summer and the constant predation by kestrels, they managed to fledge a decent number - not enough to save the species but better than none at all. It was an exhausting and emotional summer for all involved but I was well and truly hooked.
Working in close proximity to these extraordinary birds and witnessing their struggle to survive and reproduce I realised that I wanted to play a bigger part in their conservation. In early 2016 I was fortunate to be appointed as EU Life+ Project Officer for the east Norfolk colonies, part of the Little Tern Recovery Project, and so continues my journey.
I hope you will follow my Blog and enjoy the story of the little terns each breeding season. Perhaps one day you might become involved in the Recovery Project yourself?
Project Officer, RSPB East Norfolk
EU Life+ Little Tern Recovery Project 2016 -17