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Little terns take over stretch of Norfolk beach

PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 July 2010 | UPDATED: 20:37 01 August 2010

Little terns at Holkham

Little terns at Holkham

Adam Lazzari

Young couples ready to settle down and raise a chick know it's all about location, location, location.

Young couples ready to settle down and raise a chick know it's all about location, location, location.

And 38 pairs of little terns couldn't resist being inches away from the action on one of Britain's busiest and most popular beaches at Holkham National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Natural England staff had spotted the potential for a new area of shingle formed last year to offer a rare opportunity for ringed plovers - squeezed out by increased visitor numbers - to nest in peace.

They cordoned off the area and a single pair of ringed plover and oystercatcher both nested, but more surprisingly, a few pairs of little terns also investigated the site.

Staff put up signs asking the public to help them look after the site, and deployed extra warden patrols.

Natural England's senior reserve manager Michael Rooney said: “We couldn't believe that 38 pairs of little terns arrived and began nesting this year, as well as two pairs of ringed plovers.

“This is the busiest part of a very popular beach. It is probably the equivalent of pitching a tent on Piccadilly Circus. But despite exceptionally high storm tides washing away some nests in June, the fantastic news is that a total of 28 young finally fledged last week.”

Norfolk generally supports between 400 and 600 little terns, around a third of the UK population.

Holkham usually caters for around 100 pairs of little terns across four or five different colonies, so establishing a new colony of 38 pairs is considered a great result.

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