Posted 11th Aug 2017
An ambitious project to improve the habitat for rare breeding terns is underway at RSPB Dungeness - however, it seems the birds are unable to wait to breed
Improvement works have been put in place to draw threatened terns back to Burrowes Pit to breed next spring. However, the project has already enjoyed some unexpected success, with common terns now breeding in the pit for the first time since 2009.
Part of the unique redevelopment project has seen an excavator mounted on a floating pontoon. This will then be ferried into place across the water to excavate submerged shingle from around the foot of the islands. The material will then be redistributed across the top of islands to raise their heights to meet conservation specifications.
Laser levelling has played a crucial role in planning the height of over 46 islands, with RSPB ecologists advising on the specialist nesting requirements for a number of threatened species, including little terns and Mediterranean gulls.
Craig Edwards, Warden, said: "As terns breed in colonies and often return to the same sites year on year, the presence of several breeding pairs this year is great sign. We are hopeful that the works will attract common, Sandwich and even little terns back to breed at RSPB Dungeness in future years."
The complicated works are set to go ahead, and will take care to start far enough away from the nesting birds while raising their young. Terns need raised shingle to nest, but in previous years the shingle islands have been submerged during breeding season, as water levels have risen in the old quarry.
The works have received planning permission and have been approved by Natural England. They will be completed by the 31st October, when RSPB Dungeness becomes a haven for tens of thousands of wintering wildfowl. The reserve is open as usual throughout the works.
Funded through money raised from RSPB memberships and visitors to the site, along with an additional £48,200 donated by Viridor Credits, the work will be the largest investment at RSPB Dungeness for over 13 years. The Whitehead Monckton Charitable Trust have donated a further £3,000 to help to pay for a boat, which will allow the reserve team to carry out future habitat management on the islands more easily.
Gareth Williams, Operations Manager at Viridor Credits, which awarded funds towards the creation of the islands, added: “Improving the UK’s biodiversity is a major aim of both Viridor Credits and the Landfill Communities Fund. We are grateful to the RSPB for helping to deliver this aim through the invaluable work they do for our environment."
RSPB Dungeness was purchased in 1930, making it the oldest existing RSPB reserve. It was the first RSPB site that employed staff to protect the rare birds nesting there.