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Tern chick

As the Tern season comes to an end here’s an update from nature reserves around the Solent.

The start of the milder weather saw us report on some welcome summer visitors – the Tern. These birds, the Common, Little and Sandwich Tern, have now finished their breeding and left many parts of the Solent, but luckily, we have some active and enthusiastic friends located in Tern hotspots who have provided an overview of the birds fortunes this year.

Langstone and Chichester Harbours

Early in the season there was a high-water surge that unfortunately had a dramatic effect on many of the nests. With Climate Change this is an ever increasing threat as some nests are close to the water’s edge which makes them vulnerable to high ‘surge’ tides. Fortuitously, Tern can have more than one brood in a season and some of the birds re-laid with some success in the second batch.

Before the Tern breeding season the Chichester Harbour wardens are busy preparing habitats for the birds by regenerating shingle and siting nesting platforms. Once the Tern arrive they are then kept active monitoring and protecting the nest sites which in extreme cases can mean moving the nests away from the tide line if a storm is coming. Working with the public is also a key element of ensuring the future of the Tern, such as talking to boat users about the importance of avoiding landing on the islands and highlighting the fragility of the nests to visitors along the mainland coast.

At this point the feeling is that it’s been a fair year for Sandwich & common tern, but not such a good one for the little Tern. Over the coming weeks we hope to receive the number of chicks that fledged from which areas, watch this space!

Lymington and Keyhaven

This location has seen mixed results for Common, Sandwich and Little Tern. All three species have nested in greater numbers than in recent years, and on sites on the reserve they haven’t shown an active interest before. However, things haven’t panned out as expected as some colonies abandoned nests and moved to new sites.

Another impact on the tern colonies has been a pair of Peregrine Falcons that regularly hunt across the area and earlier in the season a Marsh Harrier was seen taking a host of chicks including Tern, Gull and Lapwing chicks.

Newtown Harbour – Isle of Wight

Like many other sites, there has been a decline in breeding location for Tern in recent years, yet there is hope for the Tern to come back in numbers to this location in future. Recently key officers from organisations such as the National Trust and Natural England visited this site to view former breeding locations and consider restoration management opportunities. Thankfully there are several tried and tested options to attract the Tern to return, such as regenerating shingle in hotspots and erecting floating platforms covered in sand and shingle which is vital for the birds to nest.

In the harbour a Tern interpretation board and accompanying leaflets has been installed to highlight the vulnerability of these birds and why they are important to the Solent.

Monitoring Tern gives a clue to wider environmental issues. For example, currently adult birds are mainly bringing shrimps and prawns for the chicks to eat and the youngsters need fish to sustain them. If crustaceans are all the Tern could catch, then fish stocks in the Solent are much lower than previously thought. Some fish are migratory and so changes in the climate may have encouraged the fish shoals to move to other parts of the coast.

Across the Solent sadly Tern numbers are decreasing, but the dedicated and passionate work that is being done by organisations such as the RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and Natural England helps to re-attract Tern to the area, support their breeding and create better awareness amongst the public.