Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Robin the Terns of Their Sanctuary

Modern technology is hardly my 'strong suite', and am wondering if indeed I haven't scored an 'own goal' in my quest for support in keeping the RSPB et al out of the Little Tern colony at Ferry Bridge, Portland? Since yesterday's post I have received 'dozens' of e-mails and telephone calls for help in posting a Comment, a process that is alien to me. However, all is not lost as over the next couple of days I will be able to include some of the e-mails on the Blog.

All of these Little Tern images were taken at Ferry Bridge, Portland

With every respect, we are all 'good kids' sat there night after night in front of the 'idiots lantern' watching Tiger bones being ground down to produce aphrodisiac potions, and Bear bile pumped from hapless creatures while still alive, but these serious infringements on wildlife are much closer than India or China. The 'globally endangered' Little Tern has, in recent years, had less than a toe-hold in the once thriving colony on Chesil Beach despite best effort of the Fleet Warden and his team, outside volunteers and yes the RSPB. Why then did the latter, at the very least, sanction an invasion of the colony by 'ringers' on Monday. By my own observations and hearsay evidence, there are at least 10 pairs of Terns, so far, successfully nesting in the colony most of which are still sitting on eggs. Even those with little more than a basic knowledge of wildlife know that the consequences of disturbing any bird at its nest can have a number of dire consequences from total abandonment to further risk to predation.

but for how much longer?

As afore mentioned, I talked at length to the RSPB Tern Colony Protection Team Leader, John Dadds, yesterday at the site where he assured me that a 'Risk Assessment' had been carried out by himself and his team. He informed me that there was some consternation among the group, with one member being adamantly against the idea, an element of don't knows but in the main an agreement that the project should go ahead. Now there's democracy for you! His own opinion was that there was little or NO risk, certainly not enough to abandon the idea, so the invasion went ahead.

This delicate, tiny bird, just 9" long migrates from West Africa, and back, every year.

It is of primary importance to remember that the Little Tern is afforded special protection as a Schedule 1 (the highest priority) species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and as such those disturbing, interfering with or in any way damaging them are subject to arrest by the police.

Secondly, Mr Dadds told me that all precautions were taken to cause as little disturbance as possible and the ringing procedure was carried out with expedience. Not convinced, I will ,with similar brevity, make one or two observations.

(a) Once 'incubating' bird, or birds, are 'flushed' there is no knowing when they might return to the nest, leaving the eggs exposed to every kind of danger.
(b) While I would benefit the RSPB with having some kind of chart/plan/GPS coordination of each nest they are aware of within the colony, some may have been overlooked (the Little Tern is not the only species nesting within the perimeter fence) with any being vulnerable to trampling.
(c) Having spoken to a number of very experience bird ringers since, I have learnt that there is a complex series of documentation that must be fulfilled before permission is granted to carry out such actions. 'Hands up' all those who would like to view these papers.
(d) yes I know that's 4 observations. What value the equation of disturbance v scientific knowledge gleaned. There are many, including myself, who fully agree with bird ringing, where indeed would we be without it? However, the nub of this issue is the disturbance of a colony that is literally on the edge of extinction, and no amount of ringing or reasoning can replace that. The chances of there ever being a 'ring return' from one of these birds could be described as Nil, and also extremely unlikely of them being detected, with positive identification, on a returning bird.

and finally on this subject, for today at least, and having directed the reader to the link below, a word for the 'unidentified' Neil. He was the only person to take the time to respond via the Comments box, and while not a work of 'grammatical excellence', nor one that I agree with, I would vehemently defend his right to voice it! Strange then that all the way through he is at pains to state an opposite point of view then in the final sentence completely contradict himself.

Printed as publish by Neil, spelling mistakes and all.

"i would like to appeal to other readers to condone these unhelpful views And congratulate all those people working hard and deticated to bird conservation work in dorset . Neil"

Dictionary definition of the word condone = to overlook or forgive.

Thank you for your kind support Neil!

* From:
* Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2010 05:58:41 EDT

Mr Tomlinson

As I bird frequently in the Weymouth Portland area I along with many others was more than pleased to learn that the Little Terns on the Chesil were breeding and indeed hatched young.

To learn yesterday that the site of breeding had been entered by ringers to band these birds left me and others totally astounded. What on earth is going on here as this species has such a fragile hold on the Fleet ringing them is totally out of order causing massive disruption and disturbance to the birds of which they can well do without.

I along with others would like to know who is taking responsibility for this decision to take this intrusive action and that the full and proper permission was granted in the first place as it is outrageous and in my view totally out of order. In my experience this just a scene of complete self indulgence and would like to know your immediate answer to this as this species is almost minus on the recovery list.

I await with interest your full answer.


Edwin Welland

Edward Welland is the Chairman of the Portland Bird Observatory, but stresses that this is a personal view and not necessarily that of the PBO. Ed has had an active roll in birding and wildlife generally for 5 decades, having forged great respect throughout those fraternities.

and on a lighter note

Watch your back son!


  1. I've been an avid reader of your blog for a couple of months now and have held the best interests of the Chesil Terns at heart since I started voluntary watches on the colony of Commons that used to frequent the beach at Chickerell Hive way back in the late 70's and early 80's.

    These days pressure on my time prevent me from becoming actively involved in Tern 'work', instead I have to be content to watch and photograph birds of any/all species in the limited time available. Roll on retirement!

    In those days we wouldn't dare walk into a colony, let alone 'purposely' disturb the incumbent birds for any reason whatsoever, even when there were obviously many tens if not hundreds of pairs, so why, oh why, do the latest band of experts deam it acceptable to go and ring just a few chicks that are never ever likely to be recaptured? Surely this flies in the face of the very intention of ringing!

    I know only too well how difficult it is to confidently detect a nesting Tern's exact whereabouts or, put another way, how easy it is to tread on a nest, so I trust those experts that went 'a ringing' had spent a good many hours observing the nest sites and establishing a safe and expedient plan of 'attack'? I well remember spotting a Ring Plover's nest with sitting parent just 10 feet from one of our old hides at Chickerell and I had been watching the Terns there for four hours before it became obvious! Say no more.

    Why can't they simply look, enjoy and leave the birds to their own devices, just like we used to? I fear actions of this nature have more to do with justifying one's position in the pecking order of experts and ticking the right boxes than the protection and preservation of such a vulnerable and valuable relict population of a very, very special little bird. Prevent predation by all means but please leave it at that.

    Keep up the good fight and I couldn't agree more with your recent concerns over untimely 'building works' and 'arson'!

    Nick Stantiford
    Wyke Regis

  2. Nick

    Many thanks for you Comments, did you have any difficulty in Posting? If not, and you have the time could you let me know how to do it as many 'readers' have had problems, so I can pass the method on to them.
    Thanks again.
    Yours aye

  3. As you rightly say we are all entitled to our own opinion. I have no doubt that we all want the best for the birds but have different views on the subject .I find
    it rather sad that after welcoming comments on your blog that you felt the need to make fun and twist the meaning of my comments .This hardly encourages a healthy debate on the matter . And would give the impression that certain comments posted, are only done so to provoke a reaction and create more friction between conservation organisations, bird watchers and ringers etc