Fresh appeal issued over rare little terns

Published Wednesday, 24th June 2020

A fresh appeal has been issued for people to respect a breeding colony of rare little terns on a Hartlepool beach following several incidents of nests being disturbed.

Council officials say some people are continuing to enter the fenced off area close to the centre of Seaton Carew despite previous warnings.

The site also falls within a dog exclusion zone – in force from May to September – and there is concern that some owners are ignoring the ban and allowing their animals to run roughshod over the birds’ nests.

Hartlepool Borough Council says that people found in this area with dogs will receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).

Sarah Scarr, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Heritage and Countryside Manager, said: “The wardens from the Durham Wildlife Trust who are monitoring the site, are doing a tremendous job and the vast majority of people who use the beach are respecting the nesting site.

“However, we are still seeing some people walking across the site, disturbing the colony and possibly destroying eggs.

We are also having to spend a lot of time talking to people about walking dogs on the beach. Indeed, we recently had an incident where a dog entered the site and caused chaos. Dogs should not be in this area and where we find people to be breaching the seasonal beach ban then we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action.”

“We would urge everyone 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.”

This is the second consecutive year that the legally-protected little terns have taken up residence on the beach at Seaton Carew.

Weighing only 40-60g and about the size of a starling, they 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.