The Long Nanny Tern site

The Long Nanny Tern site is located between the villages of Beadnell and Low Newton. It is a nationally important breeding site and since 1977 the National Trust has worked 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).

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

Rangers camp on the beach and look after the terns 24 hours a day
Ranger tents on the beach at the Long Nanny, Northumberland Coast

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.

The Long Nanny site is well worth a visit. A short walk from either Beadnell or High Newton will bring you to the viewing platform where one of the rangers will be there to lend a pair of binoculars and answer any questions.