IT’S BEEN a bumpy journey for little terns.

But a record number of terns now adorn the Hartlepool and east Durham coastline – despite the nests coming under attack from hedgehogs.

More than 100 little tern chicks, one of Britain’s rarest sea birds, have hatched on a breeding area at Crimdon near Hartlepool. And after several years of poor breeding figures wardens couldn’t be happier.

But it could have been a different story when hedgehogs attacked 18 nests in just two days.

Volunteer warden Trevor Stephenson, 53, said: “Luckily the hedgehogs got to the nests at an early stage so it meant the birds could re-lay and it won’t have affected the total.”

He added: “It has been a brilliant year for results and we couldn’t be happier. Last year there was only 27 chicks hatched and there was none in 2005. The little tern is a very rare protected bird so for us to get 105 chicks is excellent.”

A lack of food, namely sand eels, meant there was a mass starvation of chicks and very poor breeding results in 2004 and 2005.
But in 2006 the government banned sand eel fishing in the North Sea and the breeding figures rose.

Fellow warden, Derek Brown, 68, from Horden said: “This has to be the best year we have ever seen. I fell in love with these birds straight away and it’s fantastic to see them all here.”