Sunday 23 June 2013

Tern Up For The Books

Should we visit? Arctic Terns nesting by the pathway

Tern stone - monitored by the ranger team

Young chick by the boardwalk

Visitors arrive to share the wonder that is the Farne Islands

Sunday 23rd June comments: At this time of year we are often asked; is it right we allow visitors onto Inner Farne during the breeding season? People are often concerned that the disturbance caused to the birds (as they nest on the edge of the pathway – in some cases on the pathway!) is too much and should we allow access. It’s a good question and a fair point to raise but the answer is very intriguing…

Over the last thirty years, the Arctic Terns have altered tactics and they now choose to nest close to the buildings and the people on the islands – the closer the better. The islands (thankfully) are predator free apart from the Herring and ‘Black-backed Gulls, which will predate eggs and chicks of the Tern species.

However the Terns are one step ahead; nest close to the people and predation will drop. It’s a simple ‘protection racket’ which works and works well. The monastic courtyard on Inner Farne is heavily disturbed by visitors, but remains the premier location for nesting Arctic Terns. Predation is virtually zero and this area is one of the most successful Arctic Tern colonies on the Farnes (and probably in the UK) as the number of chicks fledging is impressive on an annual basis. Last year it was the most successful area by some stretch.

However it’s not all simple stuff as we still have to manage it right. Too much disturbance and the birds would be physically wrecked and unable to carry on. So we ensure our opening times are tight, with the disturbance down to 3.5 hours per day on Inner Farne which opens from 13:30-17:00.

It’s a delicate balancing act and we make sure we get it right each year through our research and observations. It ensures the Farne Islands Arctic Tern colonies thrive and ensure we can share it with lots of people and that’s what makes the islands so unique. Managed by the experts, for people to enjoy. Simple. 

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