Help protect little terns, beach visitors urged

Published Friday, 29th May 2020

Visitors to a Hartlepool beach are being urged to respect a colony of rare seabirds and avoid disturbing their nests.

The legally-protected little terns have again taken up residence on a stretch of beach at Seaton Carew after nesting there for the first time last year.

The nesting area, close to the resort’s centre, is clearly marked and roped off, while wardens from the Durham Wildlife Trust are monitoring the site.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from disturbing the site with potentially disastrous consequences for the colony of 80-90 birds.

Sarah Scarr, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Heritage and Countryside Manager, said: “The wardens are doing a tremendous job and the majority of people who use the beach are thrilled to see the birds back.

“However, we are still seeing people walk across the whole nesting site, disturbing the colony and possibly destroying eggs as many of the birds have started laying.

“We also had an incident where a group of youths gathered on the beach on Wednesday evening in clear breach of COVID-19 rules. Some started playing football near to the nesting site, while others are reported to have thrown objects at the little terns to get them to fly up from their nests.

“We would urge people to respect the site and keep their distance. Adult birds will leave their nests if disturbed, leaving their eggs and chicks vulnerable to the weather and predators.”

Weighing only 40-60g and about the size of a starling, little terns are the smallest of the five species of terns that breed in the UK. They winter in West Africa and migrate thousands of miles to nest here from May to August.

The birds lay their well-camouflaged eggs in shallow scrapes in the sand, but this makes the nests very difficult to spot and leaves them extremely vulnerable to disturbance and damage.

Anyone who witnesses the site being deliberately disturbed or damaged should contact the police on 101.