Public appeal protects Chesil Beach little tern chicks this summer

Morwenna Alldis

Wednesday 8 May 2019

The RSPB and partners thank the generous public for the success of their Just Giving appeal to raise funds to run the annual Little Tern Recovery Project at Chesil Beach this summer.

The Chesil Beach Little Tern Recovery Project has been running for the past ten years as a partnership between the RSPB, Chesil Beach & the Fleet Nature Reserve, Crown Estate, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Portland Court Leet.

The project sees the yearly installation of a predator fence around the Chesil Beach colony, the only colony in South West England, to protect vulnerable chicks. 24-hour wardening is also put in place by project staff, volunteers, and the local community to protect these special birds from predators and accidental disturbance by beach users.

The project costs £17,500 to run each year and has previously been grant funded. However, due to increasing competition and demand for grants, the vital funding for this summer’s project ran short, with only £4000 being secured. In February the RSPB launched a Just Giving Appeal, #LittleTernAppeal, to raise the urgently needed funds to protect this year’s chicks.

Whilst the appeal didn’t reach it’s £17,500 target, public donations from across the country raised £6,159.30, which when added to the £4000 grants secured, meant a total of £10,159.30. As part of the Just Giving total, Portland Bird Observatory kindly donated to fund the installation of the electric fence.

The RSPB are delighted to announce that an anonymous local donor has come forward and agreed to top the pot up to the full £17,500, so the project can go ahead this summer.

Kevin Rylands, RSPB Conservation Officer, said: “We are thrilled by the success of our #LittleTernAppeal and really overwhelmed by the generosity of the public whom we would like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to.

“The success of this appeal shows how much these special birds mean to people – they are one of the key reasons to visit Weymouth & Portland, and as much a part of Chesil Beach as the stones themselves.”

Ben Harrington, RSPB Chesil Beach Little Tern Project Officer, said: “The Chesil Beach Little Tern Recovery Project is a project that has meant a lot to me for several years now. Without the amazing support from everyone who donated to the fundraiser, we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do. We are all incredibly grateful to everyone who donated, it means so much to us.”

By 2009, the Chesil Beach little tern colony had dwindled to a handful of birds and for the first time in living memory, no chicks were hatched that summer – the colony was at risk of being lost. The Little Tern Recovery Project launched to save Chesil’s iconic bird.

Within one year of the project’s protection, nine chicks fledged, the highest success rate since records began in 1976. And by 2017 the recovering colony produced a staggering 73 fledglings.

How public donations will help:

  • New predator fence: Each spring a temporary electric fence is placed around the little tern colony to protect them from predators. This fence has proven essential to the colony’s success each year but needs replacing annually as the sea’s salt spray causes the wire to corrode.
  • Project Officer: The Little Tern Recovery Project is managed each year by one paid member of staff who is employed from April-August. They look after the running of the project, co-ordinate all volunteers, keep a daily check on the birds’ progress and generally make sure the birds have the best chance.
  • Equipment, clothing and overheads for the project’s volunteers: The project volunteers require proper clothing and equipment, including telescopes, binoculars, high powered torches etc, to keep a 24/7 eye on the birds. And they also need facilities while on the beach for long periods – particularly cups of tea!

Tom Randall, RSPB Little Tern Volunteer, said: “Without the public’s sponsorship there would be no volunteers, without volunteers there would be no little terns, and that would be a sad day for wildlife - so, thank you to everyone for your support.”

The RSPB are now advertising for two residential volunteers for the summer to cover the night-shift watches on the little tern project. These roles are vital to the survival of the birds as they help to deter predators who threaten vulnerable eggs and chicks. To apply visit:

Keep up-to-date with the project at:

Twitter - @Little_tern19 and @RSPBSouthWest

Facebook -


Photo Credit: Little tern chick by Morgan Vaughan

Last Updated: Monday 3 June 2019

Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Country: South West Topic: Species protection Topic: South West England