Return of the Terns

Tern Flying

In 2021, the Friends of Chichester Harbour secured a significant grant from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund in order to run a nature recovery project. This project aims to help enhance tern populations in the Harbour and to produce a landscape-wide nature recovery plan for the AONB.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. It is part of the Government’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change.

The Return of the Tern project is one of ninety projects across England to be successful in the funding and it is the only West Sussex-dedicated initiative.

The project is a partnership project between the Friends of Chichester Harbour and Chichester Harbour Conservancy and, in November 2021, a Project Manager joined the AONB team and has since been driving the project forward.

The Return of the Tern project aims to:

Provide shingle recharge at appropriate sites in the Harbour to enhance tern breeding habitat

Naturally occurring tern nesting habitat in the harbour has been significantly declining in the last 20 years. Most sites are washed out on a high spring tide resulting in a rapid decline in fledging chicks. Shingle recharge works in identified locations will raise these shingle banks to prevent tern nests and other birds being washed out.

Build upon the Conservancy’s work deploying tern rafts around Chichester Harbour to support nesting pairs in the breeding season

The project will fund 5 new rafts to be designed, built, and deployed across the harbour. These new nesting rafts will join the Conservancy’s existing rafts which have already helped to improve the amount of common terns fledging in the harbour. Between 2010-2019, only 20 common tern chicks fledged in the harbour but after the introduction of rafts in 2019, common terns have fledged 83 young in 3 years.

Watch the raft in operation:

Increase our understanding of how terns use the Harbour and what they feed on, by conducting small fish population surveys

The surveys will be timed with the feeding period of young terns to help determine the food availability for both nesting and visiting terns in the Harbour. This data will be compared to similar surveys which have taken place over the last 22 years to give insight into the food source available to terns in the Harbour and how this might have changed over time.

Establish a Southern Coastal Plain Nature Recovery area

Although the majestic tern is the flagship species of this project, the overarching theme is nature recovery. We will be working with stakeholders and communities in and around Chichester Harbour to establish a Southern Coastal Plain Nature Recovery Area for the Chichester Harbour AONB.

The Return of the Tern project will run until March 2023. The ambitious project will hopefully see an increase in both terns visiting the Harbour, and also number of nesting terns each spring. The project will make a valuable and important contribution towards the CHaPRoN aims, helping to enhance the rare habitats found around the Harbour and to recover nature on a landscape scale.