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Little Terns give Yarmouth beach a miss

PUBLISHED: 10:50 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 30 June 2010

THE colony of little terns at North Denes in Great Yarmouth has moved to different nesting sites this year.

The rare seabirds have chosen other colony sites around the Norfolk and Suffolk coast instead of their usual nesting site at North Denes beach.

THE colony of little terns at North Denes in Great Yarmouth has moved to different nesting sites this year.

The rare seabirds have chosen other colony sites around the Norfolk and Suffolk coast instead of their usual nesting site at North Denes beach.

Staff and volunteers from the RSPB were preparing for the arrival of 250 pairs of little terns at Great Yarmouth.

When the birds did not settle in their usual colony at North Denes, RSPB staff discovered that little tern numbers have grown at other colonies along the coastline, suggesting that the Great Yarmouth birds have redistributed themselves.

Little terns have nested at North Denes for 25 years and the reason for the switch in nesting sites is unknown. The colony at North Denes has been managed in the same way as previous years, with no changes on the beach itself.

This is not the first time the birds have changed nesting sites.

A few years ago they moved from North Denes to Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve. They returned to North Denes to successfully breed in subsequent years.

Both sites are protected as part of the Great Yarmouth North Denes Special Protection Area and little terns nest at both sites.

Breeding little terns are vulnerable to a wide range of potential impacts including disturbance, predation, flooding and changes in food supply. Their long-term survival depends on the protection of different colony sites along the coastline.

RSPB little tern warden, Giselle Eagle, said: “After all our work preparing for the arrival of the terns, it was hugely disappointing when they didn't turn up! We were worried that they'd had trouble migrating from Africa, but it was a great relief to discover that they had gone to other colonies along the coast.

“Little terns are not always faithful to the same nesting site. They are known to change nesting sites and they rely on sites across this whole stretch of coastline. There are lots of factors that influence their choice and we can only assume that they've changed sites this year for a good reason. We're optimistic that this is a temporary change and they'll come back to North Denes next year.”

Some little terns are nesting at nearby Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve and are being wardened by Natural England staff and volunteers.

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