Conservation in Action: BBCT helps Britain’s terns

The National Trust’s Blakeney Point on the coast of North Norfolk is famous for its breeding terns in summer and grey seals in winter. Unfortunately the number of undisturbed places where terns can nest successfully in Britain are at a premium. Not only is there pressure from humans, but also predators and one such on Blakeney Point is the Brown Rat. They have been controlled on the Point for many years, but four years ago it was decided that the programme wasn’t working satisfactorily and that the rat numbers were such that they were considered one of the factors causing the Amber Listed (one below Red Listed) Sandwich Terns to desert.

Sandwich Tern with sand eel, Blakeney Point, 29 July 2019. Richard Porter

And we must remember how important these breeding terns on Blakeney Point are. In recent years there have been over 2,500 pairs of nesting Sandwich Terns, making the colony one of the largest in Britain, indeed the world. Little Terns (also Amber Listed) typically have a population of about 75 pairs  – about 4% of the total breeding in Britain.

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, May 2019. Richard Porter

The National Trust called in Tony Martin who successfully masterminded the rat eradication on South Georgia. He designed a new programme for the Point with new boxes and baits and the British Birds Charitable Trust gave the NT a grant towards its execution, carried out through the hard work of the National Trust Rangers. This year Sandwich Terns returned in large numbers with 788 pairs raising 403 young (best for seven years), nesting Common Terns totalled over 120 pairs, whilst the Little Tern had its best year for eight years with over 108 nests from which 74 chicks fledged.

This report was first published in our BB e-Newsletter in October 2019.