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VIP visitors take flight

PUBLISHED: 09:59 07 August 2008 | UPDATED: 11:31 03 July 2010

RSPB wardens and volunteers are celebrating the success of their latest painstaking efforts to protect Yarmouth's most loyal VIP visitors.

Since little terns - one of Britain's rarest seabirds - arrived on North Denes beach in May, wardens have mounted a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week protection operation, running to more than £6,000.

RSPB wardens and volunteers are celebrating the success of their latest painstaking efforts to protect Yarmouth's most loyal VIP visitors.

Since little terns - one of Britain's rarest seabirds - arrived on North Denes beach in May, wardens have mounted a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week protection operation, running to more than £6,000.

A specially-built fence successfully kept most predators, including foxes, hedgehogs and cats, at bay, but this summer, on one occasion, wardens had to take the unusual step of flashing their torches at a rare long-eared owl to stop its night-time attack on nests.

As the majority of birds in the colony left the beach over the weekend, wardens revealed that 165 young birds had fledged to join their parents on the long flight back to West Africa.

Lead warden Sarah Lewis said that figure represented an encouraging result, on a par with last year, after the record-breaking season in 2006 when there were 673 fledglings.

The peak count of nests on the beach was 350, but with the egg-laying season spread out this year, it has been calculated that there were 800 adult visitors.

High tides washed away some nests, but the North Denes colony - the biggest nationally and one of the largest in Europe - fared better than others around the UK coast that were hit by bad weather, predation from gulls and foxes and general disturbance.

Ms Lewis said: “It is a fantastic feeling to see our hard work pay off and so many young terns ready to fly back to Africa. We would like to thank people for their enthusiasm and co-operation in helping us to protect these wonderful birds.

“We have enjoyed meeting visitors and helping them get great views of the little terns wheeling and diving for fish and feeding their chicks.”

The operation was carried out with help from Natural England, Yarmouth Borough Council and RWE npower, which contributed £6,495 for monitoring equipment and fence materials.

As well as the little terns, visitors saw a number of other rare birds, including dotterel, Caspian tern, long-tailed skua and long-tailed duck.

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