Upcycled tern raft project enjoys success


Some 48 Common Tern chicks have fledged on tern rafts made from upcycled materials in Chichester Harbour this summer. 

The project to install artificial tern rafts in Thorney Deeps, initiated by Chichester Harbour Conservancy, was featured on the BBC's Countryfile show in July. The rafts were created to help reverse the issues the population has suffered following tidal flooding, human disturbance and predators such as foxes.

Common Terns are successfully using the tern rafts made of upcycled materials in Chichester Harbour (Tony Davison).

They were built using recycled plastic board, a wooden frame and modular dock cubes. The surface was covered with a layer of shingle and sand, to mimic natural conditions, and a low mesh fence was used to prevent young chicks from falling off. The rafts were then placed on the relatively sheltered waters of Thorney Deeps which also provided easy access to the feeding sites around the Harbour. Motion sensor cameras were installed to record what was happening without disturbing the birds.

Peter Hughes, Ecologist at Chichester Harbour Conservancy, explained: "We are delighted to have been able to build on last year's success and boost the number of breeding pairs of terns to 35 this year. One of the reasons Chichester Harbour is designated as a Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest is for its nesting terns, and in recent years terns have failed to breed successfully, so it's great that we can help put this right by working with landowners around the Harbour in providing secure nesting sites. 

"The terns nested so quickly in May with the first bird arriving just 15 minutes after we'd installed the raft! This project shows that if you put small conservation interventions in place they really do pay off."

Three species of tern breed in Chichester and Langstone Harbour: Common, Sandwich and Little Tern. All three species have fared poorly in Chichester Harbour in recent years, and Little Tern in particular has experienced dismal breeding success.