A NEW chapter is beginning in a conservation success story on Chesil Beach.
And people are being sought to ensure the colony of little terns, one of the smallest and rarest seabirds, thrive.
Numbers of little terns breeding on Chesil Beach dipped to only ten pairs in 2008, but hard work by several organisations involved in the Little Tern Recovery Project has seen that number treble in the seven years since.
The RSPB says volunteers have a vital role to play again this year to try to make sure the conservation success story continues. Chesil is the only little tern colony in South West England, and as recently as the 1990s as many as 100 pairs regularly bred there.
RSPB project officer Ali Quinney said: “The last two years have been incredibly successful with 33 pairs nesting both summers, the highest number since the project started.
“As the numbers increase the colony will hopefully recover enough to be able to sustain its population without the need for so much intervention and protection.
“But the project’s success relies on the dedication and hard work of volunteers to help look after the colony, and we are looking for anyone who can spare some time to help make a real difference to the conservation of these brilliant birds.”
One of the smallest of seabirds, the little tern, which arrives from Africa in the spring, has been in decline because of predation, food shortages and extreme weather conditions. It is on the UK’s amber list of birds of conservation concern – the second highest level.
They nest on Chesil’s shingle, where they are preyed upon by foxes and other birds, and their nests are sometimes disturbed by passers-by and pets. The nesting area is fenced-off each summer, and volunteers work hard to reduce the impact of other threats.
Marc Smith, of Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “The little terns are such an important part of the wildlife on the Chesil Bank and the Fleet Nature Reserve, which is why so many partners are working together to protect them.