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Long Nanny Tern Colony

After a great day in the Farne Islands yesterday, we decided to explore some of the Northumbrian coast near to our B&B in Seahouses. We had heard about a tern colony at a National Trust Reserve called Long Nanny. Not only were the Arctic terns there but there is a breeding colony of Little terns as well. Neither of us had seen Little terns before so we headed down. Parking in the Newton Links House car park, we climbed the path, over the dunes and were presented with this view!….

Where else, on a sunny (but windy) Bank Holiday weekend, could you find a beach like this with hardly anyone else on it? It was stunning…


This site is pretty special as it has one of the very few breeding colonies of Little terns, which are on the amber list. Little terns nest on sandy beaches and, thus, are very prone to disturbance and pollution. Around 40 pairs nest on a sandy inlet here and, although that does not sound like many, it is a significant 2% of the UK population.

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This means Long Nanny is a nationally important reserve for this sensitive species. The site employ 5 rangers who care for and monitor this site throughout the breeding season. Living on site in tents and operating a 24 hr watch over the site, they aim to inform the public, monitor all the nesting sites, protect the birds and eggs from predators where possible and generally try to ensure that s many chicks are raised as possible. Since the site is on a very flat area, the area is very prone to flooding by Spring tides and stormy weather. If this is forecast, these amazing wardens raise the nesting sites up onto crates filled with sand!! They have even done this in the dark, with head torches rescuing lots of fragile chicks from drowning!

The sensitive areas are all roped off and there is a small Rangers Hut that you can view the Little tern colony from. Deb and I chatted to two lovely young rangers and looked at the Little Terns through their scope. We could not get close enough to photograph and they are Schedule 1 birds, so photography at the nest site would only be allowed with a permit.

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In front of the hut were numerous Arctic terns and a few Ringed plovers as well..

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From the Rangers hut, we had lovely views of the Arctic terns and I was able to practise my flight photography again!

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We then strolled up through the spectacular dunes..


Sheltered from the wind somewhat, we saw a Wall butterfly, lots of  Skylarks and, Reed buntings and Stonechats, but sadly they were quite flighty and did not allow us very close..

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Heading back to the car, we decided to visit a small reserve called Newton Pool Nature Reserve. A lovely Sedge Warbler was singing its heart out on the path it, but remained deep in the foliage.  We sat in the little hide overlooking the pool where a female Marsh harrier had been seen the week before! Unfortunately we did not see any species of note, but a lovely site. A Willow warbler serenaded us on our way back and I managed to get a few pics.

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Another lovely day in Northumbria with amazing weather, if not a tad breezy!

We finished off the day with a visit to Bamburgh for something to eat and watched the house martins nesting in the rather impressive window eaves of the castle!


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