Beach losses threat to Norfolk’s little tern colonies

A little tern sat on a nest in Winterton

A little tern sitting on her nest at Winterton. Picture by Chris Gomersall.

The Norfolk Coast has long been a return haven every April for nesting Little Terns, with colonies at Great Yarmouth North Dunes and Winterton on the East Coast and at Blakeney National Nature Reserve on the North. These tiny terns are one of the UK’s rarest seabirds, so are protected by RSPB Wardens from disturbance that would otherwise be caused by people pressure, marauding foxes, avian predators, dogs etc. They man the sites 24/7 and have provided viewing platforms set up to see the birds that are protected by a surrounding fence.

They nest very close to the sea, so due to the increasing beach loss with high tides now reaching the nesting sites, the habitats are critically threatened. Sea rise and worsening weather are part of the problem whilst the root cause, the export of beach cover to the pits, mainly due to offshore aggregate dredging, is an even larger one.

Normally one would have seen 350 pairs of little terns successfully nesting at Great Yarmouth North Denes, the biggest little tern colony in the country. There exist 250 more at the other two sites, but it is feared that these will fall this year following the December surge beach losses and the declining habitat.

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