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Raft launched to keep little terns safe after African flight

PUBLISHED: 12:41 09 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:27 11 March 2019

A little tern chick. A raft has been launched at Wells in Norfolk to help keep them safe after their annual miagration from Africa. Picture: Lyn Ibbitson-Elk/RSPB

A little tern chick. A raft has been launched at Wells in Norfolk to help keep them safe after their annual miagration from Africa. Picture: Lyn Ibbitson-Elk/RSPB

Lyn Ibbitson-Elk

They wing their way over 3,000 miles to get to Norfolk, but little terns still aren’t necessarily safe when they touch down.

The raft made for little terns in Wells Harbour. Picture: ROBERT SMITHThe raft made for little terns in Wells Harbour. Picture: ROBERT SMITH

But a new, specially-constructed raft at Wells-next-the-Sea has been launched to give these small seabirds a safe harbour.

The wooden platform is covered with sand, shingle and bits of piping which little terns can use for shelter.

Robert Smith, Wells harbour master, said the platform was first of its kind to be set up in Norfolk.

Mr Smith said: “We want to give the little terns a safe habitat to nest and raise their chicks, away from predators and big tides.

The raft made for little terns in Wells Harbour. Picture: ROBERT SMITHThe raft made for little terns in Wells Harbour. Picture: ROBERT SMITH

“There were a lot that got washed away in the big surge tides in 2013, but since then they have started nesting again. We were quite excited last year because there were about six pairs that were nesting, but unfortunately, they all got taken by predators.”

Mediterranean gulls are known to predate on the terns.

Mr Smith said funds for the 12-metre long platform were raised by staff at Wells Harbour Commissioners.

He said: “It’s floating, so no matter what the tides do they will be safe.

A little tern chick on the beach in Norfolk. Picture: Fabienne Fossez/RSPBA little tern chick on the beach in Norfolk. Picture: Fabienne Fossez/RSPB

“Some of my staff are really keen to protect the little terns because they are an endangered species. We’re hoping it will encourage at least a few of the birds, even one or two pairs would be a start. We just didn’t think doing nothing was an option.”

He said the platform was visible from the shore, but asked if people in boats to try to keep their distance, for safety reasons and so as not to disturb the birds.

Instead, anyone interested will be able to keeps tabs on what’s going on via a webcam installed on the platform, which will be broadcast via the website www.wellsharbour.co.uk once little terns start returning to our shores next month.

The bird, known for its yellow-and-black bill, fast flight and chattering, is in decline across Europe and its nesting sites are often vulnerable.

Little tern feeding their young after breeding in Norfolk. Picture: Kevin Simmonds/RSPBLittle tern feeding their young after breeding in Norfolk. Picture: Kevin Simmonds/RSPB

Surviving on a diet of sand eels and herring, they often lay their eggs on the beach, close to the high water mark, which means they often get washed away.

The RSPB says the UK sees about 1,900 breeding pairs each year.

Wells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian BurtWells Harbour master Robert Smith. Picture: Ian Burt

The beaches around Wells on the north Norfolk coast are a popular breeding spot for little terns after their annual miagration from west Africa. Picture: ROBERT SMITHThe beaches around Wells on the north Norfolk coast are a popular breeding spot for little terns after their annual miagration from west Africa. Picture: ROBERT SMITH

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