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Help save this year's little tern chicks on Chesil Beach

PUBLISHED: 14:41 15 February 2019

Photo credit: Thali Hamilton

Photo credit: Thali Hamilton

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The RSPB and partners launch an urgent Just Giving appeal to raise the money needed to run the annual Little Tern Recovery Project at Chesil Beach this summer, due to a shortfall in grant funding

The project is a partnership between RSPB, Crown Estate, Chesil Beach & the Fleet Nature Reserve, Portland Court Leet, Natural England, and Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Each year from April-August the project protects Chesil Beach’s Little Tern colony 24/7 from predators and disturbance, to give the chicks the best chance of survival.

The project annually costs £17,500, normally funded via grants, but this year only £4000 has been secured.

The Chesil Beach Little Tern Recovery Project has been running for the past ten years as a partnership between the RSPB, Crown Estate, Chesil Beach & the Fleet Nature Reserve, Portland Court Leet, Natural England and Dorset Wildlife Trust.

The project sees the yearly installation of a predator fence around the Chesil Beach colony, the only colony in South West England, to protect vulnerable chicks. 24-hour wardening is also put in place by project staff, volunteers, and the local community to protect these special birds from predators and accidental disturbance by beach users.

The project costs £17,500 to run each year and has previously been grant funded. However, due to increasing competition and demand for grants, the vital funding for this summer’s project has run short. The RSPB have launched a Just Giving Appeal #LittleTernAppeal to raise the urgently needed funds to protect this year’s chicks. To view the appeal and donate, visit: http://bit.ly/2RRCjsE

Kevin Rylands, RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “Little terns are one of the UK’s smallest seabirds, weighing less than a tennis ball. Every April these tiny birds beat tremendous odds by traveling thousands of miles from West Africa to a small strip of Chesil Beach to raise their family. With any luck, each adult pair will hatch two of the fluffiest and cutest chicks you’re likely to see.”

Kevin continued: “Little terns are one of the most threatened seabirds in the UK. They have disappeared from our coastline at an alarming rate and need our help. Rising sea levels, food shortages, predators, extreme weather conditions, and disturbance to their ground nesting from people, are all factors in their decline. The colony on Chesil beach are the only colony in South West England, so it’s vital that we continue to protect them and give this summer’s chicks the best chance of survival.”

By 2009, the Chesil Beach little tern colony had dwindled to a handful of birds and for the first time in living memory, no chicks were hatched that summer – the colony was at risk of being lost. The Little Tern Recovery Project launched to save Chesil’s iconic bird.

Within one year of the project’s protection, nine chicks fledged, the highest success rate since records began in 1976. And by 2017 the recovering colony produced a staggering 73 fledglings.

Hannah Thomas, Senior Fundraising Officer, said: “We have managed to secure £4000 for this year’s Little Tern Recovery Project, which costs £17,500 in total. But we desperately need your help to raise the remaining £13,500. We have launched a Just Giving appeal to ask for your help - sharing the appeal with your friends and family will help us raise the amount needed to protect these beautiful birds during their vulnerable breeding season.’’

Hannah continued: “Donating just £6.50 can make a huge difference, as this is the cost to protect one little tern nest for a night on Chesil Beach. Please help us give 2019’s little tern chicks the best possible chance to safely grow from egg to fluffy fledgling, and make their long journey to Africa in August. With your help we can make sure little terns remain part of Dorset’s landscape where they rightly belong.’’

How will your donation help?

New predator fence: Each spring a temporary electric fence is placed around the little tern colony to protect them from predators. This fence has proven essential to the colony’s success each year, but needs replacing annually as the sea’s salt spray causes the wire to corrode.

Project Officer: The Little Tern Recovery Project is managed each year by one paid member of staff who is employed from April-August. They look after the running of the project, co-ordinate all volunteers, keep a daily check on the birds’ progress and generally make sure the birds have the best chance.

Equipment, clothing and overheads for the projects volunteers: The project volunteers require proper clothing and equipment, including telescopes, binoculars, high powered torches etc, to keep a 24/7 eye on the birds. And they also need facilities while on the beach for long periods – particularly cups of tea!

£6.50 donation will help us protect one little tern nest for a night on Chesil Beach.

£25 donation will buy one roll of electric fence to help us protect our little terns from predators – we need 16 rolls in total

£450 donation will let us protect one little tern nest for a whole season at Chesil Beach – until the chicks fledge and fly to Africa.

Hannah said: “If anyone local is able to donate a four bedroom rental house/ flat in Weymouth or Portland for three months (May-July) to house our key volunteer staff on site, this would make a big dent to the cost of the project.”

Keep up-to-date with the project and the appeal at:

Facebook - facebook.com/RSPBSouthWest/

Twitter - @RSPBSouthWest

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