Wildlife success for Chichester Harbour
Little Terns, the smallest of our Terns and one of Britain's rarest breeding seabirds, are making a comeback! Seventeen Little Terns fledged from the Harbour this summer, the most successful year since the mid 1970's.
Our records show that Little Terns have attempted to nest in the Harbour most summers, although the young have not survived due to a host of pressures that are felt throughout the country. Summer storms and rising sea levels can wipe out nests, whilst their preferred shingle nesting sites can be eroded. Inadvertent disturbance by water users or people and dogs out walking plus pressure from natural predators all threaten successful breeding.
We actively manage several sites around the Harbour to encourage and protect nesting birds whilst educating water users and walkers to minimise any disturbance throughout the nesting season. This year, we also joined forces with the RSPB, who manage one of the Little Terns' preferred sites at Pilsey Island, to carefully monitor the birds when they started to nest.
We are extremely pleased with the breeding success this year as in south east England the number of breeding pairs had decreased by 86% in the last 30 years. Luck has been on the Little Terns' side with a period of calm weather immediately after they decided to nest where in previous years, the opposite has been the case. In order to secure their long term future in the Harbour, we will continue to secure new habitat for them, along with the help of our partners the RSPB.
Little Terns were first recorded in the Harbour in 1959 and their most successful breeding year was 1976, where 100 pairs of Little Terns were observed nesting. Their favoured site is a remnant embankment built by the Victorians in the 1860's in an attempt to reclaim saltmarsh for agriculture. All that remains of the scheme now are sections of wooden posts lurking just above and below the surface of the water, but the areas of shingle that accumulate there are a favourite nesting spot for the Terns.