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THE TERN COLONY

There is a tern colony on the Northumbrian mainland which I try to visit each summer. It is managed as a nature reserve by the National Trust who originally established the reserve to protect a small colony of Little Terns. They are still there on Beadnell Bay and it seems 2014 has been a good year for them with nearly 40 chicks being hatched. Yet their numbers are dwarfed by the 2500 breeding pairs of Arctic Tern this year. These arrived as an 'overspill' population from the Farne Islands more than 30 years ago, but now there are apparently more Arctic Terns at the Long Nanny reserve than on the Farnes.

What an impressive sight all these terns make. I stood by the observation hut less than 20 feet away from nesting Arctic Terns in the dunes. Noisy individual parent birds flew overhead, calling repeatedly and occasionally swooping down at me, but unlike their Farne counterparts these birds did not attack and peck me. A recently fledged juvenile made short flights back and forth, incurring the wrath of dive-bombing adults. Small chicks sat in the marram grass waiting to be fed. And a procession of adult terns continually arrived in the dunes with beakfuls of fish to do the feeding. Judging from the size of those fish, it's been a good year for Sand Eels too.

Mark Winter




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