Raft launched to keep little terns safe after African flight
- Credit: 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.
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.
“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.
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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.
“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.
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.