Little Terns return to the Long Nanny

The Long Nanny shorebird site is located between the villages of Beadnell and Low Newton. It is a nationally important breeding site and 2019 marks 42 years since the National Trust began working to protect the site and the birds that breed there.

For nine months of the year, the site blends into the vast stretch of unspoilt beach that is Beadnell Bay. As May arrives it all changes as thousands of birds arrive on site for the start of the three month breeding season. It becomes a temporary home for three species of ground nesting bird: the Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) and Ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula).

Since the National Trust started managing the site, breeding numbers have been increasing. Starting with only three pairs of Little Terns in 1977, the numbers of this species have increased each breeding season to a current total of 30-50 pairs. This makes the Long Nanny a nationally important site for the Little Terns, with approximately 2% of the British breeding population using the site. It is also home to the largest mainland breeding colony of Arctic terns in the UK. After the first recorded pair bred on the reserve in 1980, the colony has grown considerably, reaching a high of 2,443 pairs in 2014. Last but by no means least the Long Nanny site also supports a regionally important breeding population of Ringed Plovers, with around 10 to 15 pairs nesting annually, spreading between the saltmarsh, spit and front dune system.

Every season National Trust rangers live on site camping in the dunes and providing a 24 hour watch for the nesting birds; protecting them from predators and welcoming visitors to the site. Even before the birds arrive there is plenty to get ready. Vegetation needs to be cut back, signs installed, fences checked and possibly most important; erecting the compost toilet shed. Also, with the permission of Natural England, the National Trust is trialling the management of areas of vegetation at the site and the use of decoy birds, to encourage the birds to nest further away from the high tide line.

The conservation work being done to protect these very special birds is part of a wider project supported by EU LIFE+  and is a partnership between the RSPB, Northumberland AONB partnership, National Trust and Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.

As the season gets underway rangers are kept busy monitoring the birds progress, rescuing low lying nests from high tides,chasing away badgers, foxes and other predators and welcoming visitors.

The Long Nanny shorebird site is 1km south of Beadnell and although access is restricted on the beach to protect the birds, visitors are very welcome to come along to the site and have a chat with the rangers, to view  the birds and ask lots of questions; follow the diversion signs from the beach and dunes. The ranger team are on hand to welcome visitors 7 days a week until late July.

Dogs are welcome at the viewing platform, but it is very important that visitors keep dogs on leads at all times when visiting or walking near the colony; Any disturbance to the colony can have devastating consequences for these very special breeding birds.