Little tern fears could ground air shows

PUBLISHED: 12:58 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:58 13 July 2018

The Haven Gt Yarmouth 2018 Air Show.
 Pitts light aerobatic bi-plane.
Picture: Nick Butcher

The Haven Gt Yarmouth 2018 Air Show. Pitts light aerobatic bi-plane. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

The possibility of another summer Great Yarmouth Air Show taking place has been thrown into doubt over concerns about planes disturbing little terns.

Little tern chicks are preparing to make their journey to West Africa. Picture: Fabienne Fossez/RSPBLittle tern chicks are preparing to make their journey to West Africa. Picture: Fabienne Fossez/RSPB

The RSPB says it opposes plans for another air show when little terns are breeding between May and the end of August and says regulator Natural England wants to block the summer event as well.

The RSPB had wanted to stop last month’s inaugural air show from taking place over fears it would impact on the little tern colony by Scroby Sands and had asked Natural England to support its aim.

News of the Natural England stance for future events on the seafront came as air show organisers commissioned a report into the impact of last month’s show on the rare birds.

That report, prepared by Wild Frontier Ecology, said: “The breeding success of the little tern colony at North Denes and the combined little and common tern colony on Scroby Sands have not been adversely impacted by the 2018 Haven Great Yarmouth Air Show.”

Jeff Knott, RSPB East of England regional directorJeff Knott, RSPB East of England regional director

It added that tern “flushes” due to planes passing by lasted an average of 63 seconds while they were disturbed by gulls for an average for 115 seconds.

In response to the report Jeff Knott, RSPB regional director, said: “Whilst little terns did not desert their nests on Scroby 
Sands and North Denes during the Air Show, those on Scroby Sands were disturbed, flying up from their nests four times with each Red Arrow flyover, each time running a risk of eggs chilling, predators sneaking in and 
parents deserting. Ultimately, it is purely down to luck that the birds did not desert.

“Our little terns are protected by law. This year, the legislation has been undermined, but Natural England – the body responsible for enforcing our laws to protect nature – have stated that they will not allow Great Yarmouth Air Show to take place during the little tern breeding season again. They recognise that there is not enough evidence to guarantee no adverse effects to our east Norfolk little tern colonies.”

The RSPB says it will work with air show organisers to move future events out of breeding season.

For this year’s show organisers had adjusted flight lines due to the concerns raised.

A spokesperson for 2018 Haven Great yarmouth Air Show organisers, the Great Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District (GYTABIA) said: “The GYTABIA Board will be considering all options at its September meeting.”

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