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Little Tern in Dorset; what your tweets tell us ...

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  • Nationally scarce Dorset is one of the few places that the little gull nests.



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The little tern is a summer visitor to Dorset but we have only one breeding colony here. The population level at this one nesting site on Chesil beach was declining but substantial efforts have been made involving extensive fence protection and volunteers manning a 24 hour a day watch over the site and this has meant the negative effects of predators and egg collectors have been minimised. These efforts have been rewarded by a gradual reversal of the downward trend and the population numbers are now healthier. Once breeding is finished the little tern flies south to avoid our winter. Unlike some migrating species they avoid crossing the Sahara and follow the western coasts of Europe and then Africa with some flying as far as South Africa. 

First spring arrivals are seen in week 14 in April and numbers build over the following couple of weeks and many reports come in during May but once established and breeding starts from about week 20 onwards reports are much fewer. By week 33 at the beginning of August they are gone for another year.

The colony in Dorset on Chesil beach is just west of Ferrybridge on the way from Weymouth to Portland and as a result the bulk of the records come from Ferrybridge but they can also be seen searching for food anywhere along the Fleet up as far as Abbotsbury Swannery. They are sometimes seen in Portland Harbour and off the Portland coast down to the Bill but they seem to prefer the shallower waters of the Fleet for fishing rather than deeper waters. Little tern are occasionally seen further east in Poole Harbour and off Christchurch but these will be birds from colonies further east.

Undoubtedly, the best way to see little tern for your Dorset list is to book an expedition on the Fleet Observer which cruises quite close to their colony and you get the best possible views without causing the birds distress.


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This chart shows the number of reports per week for this species where there are reports (see note below):

The intention of this chart is to show which weeks during the year this species is most likely to be seen. See note above about multiple reports of a single specimen!

This chart shows the number of reports per month for this species where there are reports (see note below):

The intention of this chart is to show which months during the year this species is most likely to be seen. Remember that is is the total number of REPORTS; there may be several reports for just one occurrence of the species (that is to say, a number of individuals may have been to see a single specimen of a species).

This chart shows the number of reports for each year for this species where there are reports (see note below):

Contributors to the Nature of Dorset have seen this species at these locations:

Please note that the markers show APPROXIMATE locations of the observation, not exact locations! You can find often find out more information about location by looking at the original tweet. Click on any marker to see the name of the location and then click on the location name to see more details about the site where available.

This chart shows the number of reports per site for this species. Hover over any column to see the site and the number of reports:

Ckick/tap the list icon for an alphabetical list of all the posts in this series from where you can access any that are of interest to you

Name Peter Orchard
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Twitter Screen Name peterorchardnod
Location Wareham, Dorset, UK

This is a feed of contributions to my main website; the Nature of Dorset. My 'high five' are the five most interesting species from my walks in Dorset somewhere

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