PUBLISHED: 17:31 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 February 2013
COMMON terns are long-distance travellers to England, winging their way back from the west coast of Africa, where they spend our winter.
COMMON terns are long-distance travellers to England, winging their way back from the west coast of Africa, where they spend our winter. Every May they return to this country having completed a trip of more than 10,000 miles. Over the last few weeks, the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust has been welcoming them back to our nature reserves and ensuring that they have somewhere suitable to settle for the forthcoming breeding season.
These streamlined birds are pale grey and white with forked tails. Their bills are red with a black tip. Less than 50 pairs of common terns breed in the whole of Hertfordshire out of a national population of about 13,000. Natural scouring by rivers of their banks used once to create the right conditions for terns, but the practice of managing rivers to prevent flooding has meant that such suitable habitat is scarcely found in Hertfordshire these days.
Because of this, we've been creating the next best thing to help conserve the common tern. Special rafts - using recycled plastics in many places - are covered in a mix of gravel and stones of a variety of sizes to imitate their natural nest sites. The rafts are floated onto the water to provide an alternative to nesting on bare ground. They also provide protection from predators who might otherwise take eggs or young from the nest.
If you would like to enjoy these acrobatic birds showing off their skillful fishing techniques, visit Amwell Nature Reserve and Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve near Harefield where new tern rafts have been installed early this spring. Rafts can also be seen at Stocker's Lake near Rickmansworth and Wilstone Reservoir Nature Reserve near Tring.