What we're looking for
We are looking for kayakers, canoeists and sailors of all kinds to help locate and observe little terns and other beach-nesting birds around the Essex coast, specifically Hamford Water and the Blackwater Estuary and Colne Estuaries during the April to August breeding season. We would ask you to watch out for little terns while out on your boat, keeping records of their location and activities such as diving for fish or settling on beaches. Once little terns start to nest, we would like you to visit the colony from time to time to monitor numbers, nests and fledglings and if possible and safe keep a record of predators and human disturbance until chicks are fledged. This is an opportunity to connect with and help conserve the nature around you while out enjoying it! The little tern is one of Britain's rarest breeding seabirds and has suffered chronic decline over the past 25 years in part due to the loss of suitable coastal breeding sites. They nest on sand or shingle coastal beaches near shallow, sheltered feeding areas where they catch small fish, invertebrates and surface insects. Unfortunately, in Essex little terns are struggling to find a safe place to nest on our beaches due to increasing recreational activities, climate change, habitat loss and predation, as such their numbers are at a low ebb and colonies are restricted to remote and difficult to reach places. This presents an ongoing challenge to both the species and conservation efforts. As a boat user you are uniquely placed to feed into the ongoing efforts to save this charming summer visitor to our shores. As a partner in the national EU LIFE little tern project, the RSPB in eastern England has worked to increase the population of little terns through restoration, creation and management of breeding sites; monitoring and protecting nesting terns and their young during the breeding season; and increasing public awareness to ensure support for the long term protection of little terns.