Hundreds of seabirds are nesting at Preston Marina after travelling thousands of miles from West Africa.
The wave breakers around the Marina are currently teeming with common terns, incubating eggs and feeding young chicks. So far this year, 131 pairs of common terns have attempted to breed and over 50 chicks have been counted with more are expected to hatch soon.
The RSPB is giving visitors the chance to get to experience these charismatic seabirds with a special tern-watching event on Thursday 21 July. Staff and volunteers from the nature conservation organisation will be on hand with powerful telescopes, offering close up views of the fast and agile birds.
Jon Carter from the RSPB in North West England is organising the event. He said: "Common terns are fascinating birds to see in action. Also known as sea swallows, they're incredibly graceful, agile birds and an absolute joy to watch.
Contrary to what their name might suggest, common terns have been in long-term decline and are classed as a species of conservation concern so to see so many in one place is a real treat."
Common terns have tried to nest on the wave breakers around the Marina since 2009 but originally struggled due to a lack of suitable nesting material.
Keen to give the birds the best chance of nesting success, in 2011 the Fylde Bird Club teamed up with Preston City Council and created numerous artificial nests by placing recycled tyres and gravel on the wave breakers. In 2012, the RSPB joined the partnership and has actively supported the project ever since.
Over the last three years, Fylde Bird Club has been working with pupils and staff at Saint Aidan's Church of England Technology College, Preesall, to create purpose-built tern nest boxes. These provide tern eggs and chicks with shelter and protection from predators.
This year, Fylde Bird Club and St Aidan's school, together with help from St George's School in Marton, made an additional 205 nest trays. Club members then assisted Preston City Council staff in setting out the trays along with a tonne of gravel, which common terns use to nest.
By providing safe places to nest, the number of common terns breeding at the Marina has gone from two pairs in 2009 to more than 130 in 2016.
Paul Ellis of the Fylde Bird Club, said: "The views of the nesting birds at Preston Dock are exceptionally good and this has allowed club members to read the serial numbers of the British Trust for Ornithology rings carried by many of the birds.
"The results have shown the majority have come from Shotton on the River Dee but others have originated from further afield including Orkney, Rockabill in Ireland, Anglesey and County Durham. However, the star is a female which was ringed in Namibia in 2011 and has been recorded at Preston Dock for the past three summers."
Preston City Councillor Robert Boswell, Cabinet member for community and environment, added: "This has and continues to be a great project, which the council are delighted to be part of.
"For the breeding pair numbers of common terns to have increased by so many is testament to the hard work of the RSPB, the Fylde Bird Club and the school children. Anyone interested in seeing these fascinating birds should visit Preston Marina on 21st July."
The RSPB will be at the south side of the Dock on Thursday 21 July from 10am to 4pm.