Lindisfarne bird numbers take a tern for the better

Little terns have had a good year on the Lindisfarne reserve.
Little terns have had a good year on the Lindisfarne reserve.

Little tern numbers on the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve are thriving thanks to the efforts of wardens and volunteers.

They are the UK’s second rarest seabird with only around 1,500 breeding pairs returning from West Africa each year.

Reserve warden Mhairi Maclauchlan, writing in the Holy Island newsletter, said: “There were a good number of little terns throughout the reserve with a total of 37 scrapes and an amazing 42 fledged.

“Looking back over previous years our fledgling numbers for 2016 were the second highest since 2000.”

Little terns nest on the beach along with other shorebirds but are very susceptible to disturbance.

The Northumberland Little Tern Project, a partnership between the National Trust, Natural England, RSPB and the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, provides additional funding to the sites. With this support, extra seasonal staff help protect the sites, provide new information signs and additional fencing to enclose nesting areas.

There is also a little tern colony at Long Nanny, near Beadnell.

It was also a great year for arctic and common terns at Lindisfarne, with 150 pairs counted.

Ringed plover and oystercatchers have been struggling recently but wardens hope to have a closer look at what they can do to help them on the reserve in the future.

Brent geese numbers are estimated at around 1,200 and pink-footed geese arrived at the end of last month, with around 400 at Budle Bay.

A seal count has also revealed a big drop in numbers.

“We only do this a couple of times in the year so that we minimise disturbance, however we had a count of 2,600 which is a lot lower than the 4,000+ last year,” said Mhairi.