Breeding platform boost for threatened seabird colony near Lancaster

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An under-threat colony of seabirds could be boosted by the creation of a special new breeding platform.

It is hoped the feature in the Lune estuary will increase the number of nesting common terns.

Several hundred pairs of common tern used to breed on the Lune estuary saltmarshes before the colony collapsed in 2008 due to a range of factors such as recreational disturbance, predation by foxes and erosion of the saltmarsh.

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The small population of common tern nesting at Conder Pool is all that remains of the once large colony.

A common tern. Photo: David TiplingA common tern. Photo: David Tipling
A common tern. Photo: David Tipling

The platform has been installed at Conder Pools Nature Reserve in Conder Green, south of Lancaster, and can be seen from the nature reserve viewing screen, next to the layby on the B5290.

It is made from upcycled and salvaged marine pontoons, floats and timbers donated by Aquavista Glasson Dock, a marina and boat yard in the centre of Glasson Dock.

The platform has been designed specifically to be adopted by nesting common tern - a small, agile seabird that breeds in the UK and spends the winter in southern Europe and western Africa.

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Common tern can be identified by their black heads, red bills and sharp, angular flight and characteristic high-pitched calls.

The Conder raft completed and ready for the terns. Photo by Howard StockdaleThe Conder raft completed and ready for the terns. Photo by Howard Stockdale
The Conder raft completed and ready for the terns. Photo by Howard Stockdale

They start nesting in May and chicks usually hatch in late May or early June. The chicks fledge in July and August and leave to migrate south for the winter in late summer.

Calum Booth, an RSPB conservation officer, said: “This new platform will provide a safe, secure nesting area for the species and we hope that the population in the Lune estuary can now start to recover.”

Dave Lewis, the site manager of Glasson Dock Marina and Boat Yard, has been instrumental in making the project possible.

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He said: “Glasson Marina is already a haven for wildlife. Whether it’s the swans and ducks leading their chicks amongst the canal boats and cruisers in the spring or the waders and gulls out on the estuary in the winter there is always wildlife here.

Common terns. Photo by Howard StockdaleCommon terns. Photo by Howard Stockdale
Common terns. Photo by Howard Stockdale

"The birds are one of the things that makes the place special to our residents and visitors, so when we were approached by the RSPB about recycling some of our old dock pontoons into nesting rafts for seabirds like common tern, we were more than happy to help."

Conder Pool nature reserve is managed by volunteers from Fylde Bird club.

Paul Ellis, the club secretary said: ​

"The new nesting raft is one of a series of improvements we’ve made. As well as the new platform, the islands in the pool are being de-vegetated and extended to make more nesting space for species such as avocet and ringed plover this coming spring.”

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