THE future of rare seabirds will be more secure after nearly £200,000 was given to protect their nests.
The little tern population has plummeted since the 1990s with nests in Langstone Harbour vulnerable to predators such as rats, foxes and gulls.
Because the birds nest on shingle close to the shore in summer they also get flooded by the tide and can get unwittingly damaged by people in the harbour.
The RSPB, working with Havant Borough Council and the Langstone Harbour Board, has now gained funding from the European Union, Heritage Lottery Fund and Veolia Environmental Trust of £183,500 for a three-year project to restore and protect their nesting sites at the harbour.
Tim Callaway, the RSPB’s area manager for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, said: ‘I am really excited about this project to save nesting little terns in Langstone Harbour.
‘It is wonderful to see that these dainty, but threatened, birds have captured the imagination of so many others.
‘Work has already started planning the protection of existing nesting sites and the creation of new raised areas of nesting shingle both on islands in Langstone Harbour and at the oysterbeds at West Hayling Local Nature Reserve owned by Havant Borough Council.
‘We have also just advertised for a new RSPB site manager for the harbour who will be responsible for this project.’
During the 1980s and 1990s the number of nesting little terns along the south coast was around 350 pairs.
Since then the breeding population has fallen to just a third of that and approximately half of them breed in and around Langstone Harbour.
Rob Hill, Havant Borough Council’s open spaces officer, said: ‘We are delighted that RSPB have been successful with this award.
‘This is great news for the little terns, as well as providing opportunities for the local community to engage with these beautiful seabirds and their nesting environment.
‘We look forward to working with the RSPB over the coming years to make a real difference for the nesting seabirds in Langstone Harbour and to help increase people’s enjoyment of the harbour’s wildlife.’
The Veolia Environmental Trust’s executive director McNabb Laurie said: ‘This is great news for the little tern population.’