Little Tern Surveyor - Saving Nature Scheme

Friday 16 February 2018
Vacancy type:
Practical conservation, Surveying wildlife
Old Hall Marshes

What we're looking for

As part of the RSPB's Saving Nature Scheme, we are looking for volunteers to help monitor and protect little terns and other beach-nesting birds around the Essex coast (specifically Hamford water and the Blackwater, and Colne Estuaries) during the breeding season (April to August). Unfortunately, Little Terns are restricted to remote and difficult to access places in Essex. This prevents a big challenge to their ongoing monitoring. We are particularly interested in hearing from people who have 4 x 4's or can commit to walking to remote places to monitor these birds. The role would involve identifying those beaches where little terns are gathering, monitoring nesting activity and chicks, and keeping records of predators and human disturbance until chicks are fledged. We are also keen to continue to undertake co-ordinated counts on the Essex Coast and collect anecdotal reports and you would be key part of this, even if returning zero counts. This is an fantastic opportunity to really make a difference to Little terns in Essex and join this exciting initiative at the beginning. The little tern is one of Britain's rarest breeding seabirds and has suffered chronic decline over the past 25 years. They nest on sand or shingle coastal beaches near shallow, sheltered feeding areas where they catch small fish, invertebrates and surface insects. 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, and their numbers are declining along with suitable breeding sites. As a partner in the national EU-LIFE little tern project, the RSPB 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.

The skills you need

You will need to be able to identify coastal birds and different members of the tern family. Surveying and monitoring these birds requires patience, so you need to be willing to observe for periods of time. You may need to walk some distance to nesting sites, and be comfortable working outside in all weather conditions. Occasionally, we may need you to verify reports of little terns sent to us via out little tern hotline. You will need to be able to keep accurate written records using the little tern data monitoring sheets. An ability to be discrete with sensitive information and to use tact and diplomacy will be necessary. Where terns are nesting in areas with high human populations, you will need to be approachable and comfortable talking to members of the public about why and how we are trying to protect adults, nests and young during the breeding season. The work location may be off public transport routes; as a result a driving or boat license would be useful. Your own optical equipment is also required. Full training is provided in April and RSPB staff will provide ongoing support throughout the season.

Your time

Minimum one day per week.
May to mid August each year

What's in it for you?

If you like the idea of spending your summer outdoors bird-watching on the coast, while contributing to the conservation of little terns in Essex, this is the role for you! The role will give you a chance to learn and develop your survey skills, learn more about little terns, make new friends and raise awareness in others about the need to protect and conserve this delicate sea bird. Full training and support will be provided. As an RSPB volunteer you are part of something big – a team of amazing and dedicated people who donate their time, energy, talent and skills to help birds and other wildlife. As the largest conservation charity in Europe, the RSPB can help you meet a range of like minded people and give you a valuable insight into our work. Your support will help to make a genuine contribution to wildlife conservation.

How to apply


Sarah Gelpke, Old Hall Marshes
Tel: 01621 869015


For some little tern colonies, a full driving licence and access to a vehicle will be required. Volunteer survey areas will be agreed in advance, based on personal circumstances of the volunteer and where the survey need is greatest. Occasional weekend or evening working may be required. Appropriate training will be provided and out-of-pocket expenses will be reimbursed. The RSPB is the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe working to secure a healthy environment for birds and wildlife, helping to create a better world for all of us. It relies on the support and generosity of volunteers to make a difference. We belong to BirdLife International, the global partnership of bird conservation organisations. Your time and skills could make a real difference to the work of the RSPB and it would be great if you could join us.

Reference number 8199