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25th March 2019 | Today's High Tides | 03:05 - 5.35m | 15:33 - 5.11m | Full Tide Tables

Protecting the Little Tern


Why we want you As part of the RSPB's Saving Nature Scheme, we are looking for boat-owners and sailors with an interest in birds to help monitor and protect little terns and other beach-nesting birds around the Essex coast (specifically the Blackwater Estuary, Hamford Water and Colne Estuary) during the breeding season (April to August). The role would involve identifying those beaches where little terns are gathering, monitoring nesting activity and chicks, and keeping records of predators and human disturbance until chicks are fledged.

The little tern is one of Britain’s rarest breeding seabirds and has suffered chronic decline over the past 25 years. They nest on sand or shingle coastal beaches near shallow, sheltered feeding areas where they catch small fish, invertebrates and surface insects. Little terns are struggling to find a safe place to nest on our beaches due to increasing recreational activities, climate change, habitat loss and predation, and their numbers are declining along with suitable breeding sites.

As a partner in the national EU LIFE little tern project, the RSPB in eastern England has worked to increase the population of little terns through restoration, creation and management of breeding sites; monitoring and protecting nesting terns and their young during the breeding season; and increasing public awareness to ensure support for the long term protection of little terns. In 2017, for the first time in years, three little terns fledged at the RSPB reserve at Old Hall Marsh Reserve.

What’s in it for you? As an RSPB volunteer you are part of something big – a team of amazing and dedicated people who donate their time, energy, talent and skills to help birds and other wildlife.

If you like the idea of combining boating activities with the conservation and protection of the delicate little tern, this is the role for you! You will have a chance to learn and develop bird survey skills, learn more about little terns and other seabirds, and contribute to the conservation of little terns around the Essex coast. Full training and support will be provided by RSPB staff. As the largest conservation charity in Europe, the RSPB can help you gain skills, meet a range of like minded people, make new friends, and give you a valuable insight into our work. Your support will help to make a genuine contribution to wildlife conservation.

The skills you need

An interest and enthusiasm for seabirds and other wildlife is beneficial with a keenness to learn about the identification and protection of little terns and other seabirds essential. Monitoring these birds requires patience, so you need to be willing to observe for periods of time. You may need to survey in all weather conditions, as long as it’s safe to put to sea. Occasionally, we may need you to verify reports of little terns sent to us via out little tern hotline. You will need to be able to keep accurate written records using the little tern data monitoring sheets. An ability to be discrete with sensitive information and to use tact and diplomacy will be necessary. Your own optical equipment is also required. Those in charge of boats will need to be suitably qualified and demonstrate competency for the waters they operate in.

Your time

Minimum commitment: Minimum one day per week throughout the summer season (May - August). Training starts in April, with surveying staring in around early May. Full training is provided in April and RSPB staff will provide ongoing support throughout the season.

Duration: Ongoing and longer term

Who to contact? Sarah Gelpke, SNS Project Officer Tel: 07703470713 Email: