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Giving the terns a home

Last modified: 17 July 2013

Common tern swooping

Common tern

Image: Graham Catley

RSPB Scotland is looking forward to a successful breeding season for the area’s common tern population after repairing the special floating tern rafts that the charity has provided for the birds over the last twelve seasons in the Moray Firth.

The RSPB’s Brian Etheridge said, “Things are looking very promising. We currently have 95 pairs of common terns on the raft at Foulis and 230 pairs on the rafts at Avoch. This is the highest number ever which is great news. For the first time we also have 4 pairs of black-headed gulls taking advantage of the rafts plus a pair of oystercatchers.

“The Moray Firth has a very important population of common terns. These beautiful birds, which travel here from west Africa every year, are very vulnerable when they attempt to breed. Traditionally they chose shingle and sandy beaches on the coast but, over the years, these locations have become problematic because of disturbance. The answer has been to create these special floating rafts – gifted to us by the fish-farm that used to operate at Avoch – which provide a secure home for the birds and their chicks.

However Mr Etheridge disclosed that even the rafts have not been without problems.

“Last year the breeding colony on one of the rafts failed. We think this is because an otter or mink managed to get on board and it wreaked mayhem. This year, with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage, we have built up the sides of the rafts which, hopefully, will prevent a repeat. Most years the rafts are extremely successful and hundreds of young terns have fledged. That makes them probably the most successful common tern colonies in Scotland.”

The rafts can be viewed from the coast at Avoch and on the Cromarty Firth at Storehouse of Foulis.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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