Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Terns Re-Homed at Whitesands Quarry

…Junior Rangers and RNLI team up

Terns now have a new home in the Dunbar area thanks to the East Lothian Junior Rangers and RNLI, who have teamed up with Lafarge Tarmac and RSPB Scotland to build and launch a new nesting raft in the regenerating Whitesands Quarry at Oxwellmains, east of Dunbar.

Junior Rangers is an environmental group for young people in East Lothian aged 11-18. Set up by the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service the focus of the group is conservation work, including practical habitat management, biological surveying and environmental interpretation. The East Lothian Junior Rangers have already been working at countryside sites around the county, developing skills in bird and plant identification, using large hand tools and carrying out butterfly transects. The Junior Rangers who took part in this exercise were: Duncan Hodge, Nathan Rennie, Daniel Swinton, Katie Belton, Blair Darling, Matthew Burns, Esme Haillay, Anna Paterson.

The raft, which is 16m2 and covered in gravel, has been moored on the water body near the public viewing area that was built in 2012. The Junior Rangers, a group of 11-17 year olds set up by East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service to study conservation work and practical habitat management, were responsible for making sure the gravel on the base of the raft was the perfect depth for nesting terns. Stuart Pirie and his team from the RNLI Dunbar station then towed the raft out and secured it in position with one of their inshore lifeboats.

Junior ranger Katie Belton, 16, said the raft showed her that projects didn’t have to take years to make a difference. “We’ve hopefully improved the habitat for terns in just a few hours. I’m looking forward to coming to the viewing area over the summer and just sitting and eating biscuits and watching the terns using the raft!”

According to RSPB Scotland’s Mike Thornton, the project officer appointed by Lafarge Tarmac to develop plans for the former quarry, tern numbers have suffered across Britain due to loss of nesting sites. He says that in time, the raft should provide a secure nesting habitat for terns, which have suffered from habitat loss and nest predation along the east coast of Scotland.

He said: “Terns were fairly common in the past but disturbance from humans and dogs along the coast, and attacks on eggs and young chicks by predators, have all taken their toll. Even new sea defences at sites around our coastline have reduced the available nesting habitat for these birds.

The installation of this tern raft marks the beginning of an exciting, long-term programme of habitat creation and restoration for this old quarry site. The use of tern rafts and floating islands can offer an effective way to provide important undisturbed habitat in a deep water lake for ground nesting birds such as terns and some wader species. It’s a great addition to Whitesands Quarry and to East Lothian birdlife as a whole, and will give visitors to the viewing area even more to look at.”

Manager at the Lafarge Tarmac Dunbar cement plant, Florin Stoiean, added: “We are working with RSPB Scotland to create a vision for restoring the quarry in a way that enhances and encourages biodiversity, and creates a great amenity for local communities.

A year into this project, we are delighted with the ideas Mike has come up with and the way in which the area is taking shape. We would like to express our thanks to the Junior Rangers and the RNLI, and hope to see many visitors this summer to the viewing area to see the new raft.”

4th July 2014