‘Disappointment’ after wardens looking after protected birds in Hartlepool are abused
Police will be monitoring a cordoned-off nesting area after reports that volunteer wardens minding the birds have suffered abuse from yobs.
The site is monitored by wardens from the Durham Wildlife Trust.
Borough councillor Sue Little has now said the volunteers looking after the terns have been “hassled by anti-social behaviour of youths”.
She said: "They’re volunteers. They don’t deserve this. They’re going out on their own free will.”
Mark Dinning, head of conservation for Durham Wildlife Trust, has said it has been “disappointing” to hear reports of wardens receiving abuse.
But he stressed that the majority of people who come into contact with staff and volunteers have been “supportive”.
He added: “The little tern wardens deliver a vital role for Durham Wildlife Trust, protecting these small birds as they nest on local beaches after migrating thousands of miles from West Africa.
"2021 has been a great year for the little terns, with around 80 birds spotted and more than 30 nests, including one bird that was originally tagged 10 years ago as a fledgling.
"It was disappointing to hear reports of our wardens being on the receiving end of anti-social behaviour while going about their jobs and we would politely request that individuals visiting the tern nesting areas respect our staff and the birds.
"However, in contrast to any negative behaviour, we have been overwhelmed by the supportive response from local people to this project and to our team of staff and volunteers.”
The legally-protected birds first nested in Seaton in 2019.
Last summer, a colony of 80 to 90 of the birds took up residence in the same area.
Sadly they were disturbed when cones put up to protect them were flung onto the beach during one incident in June 2020.
They were also often disturbed by people and dogs despite the area of the beach being part of a dog exclusion zone.
Hartlepool Borough Council has condemned the recent abuse and urged people to treat the wardens and the birds with respect.
A spokesperson said: “We utterly condemn any abuse, both physical and verbal, directed at the dedicated group of volunteer wardens who are giving up their own time to help protect the little terns’ nesting site at Seaton Carew.
“The vast majority of people using the beach respect the wardens and the nesting site.
"But we are not prepared to tolerate the mindless actions of a minority. We will pass on any information that we receive in relation to incidents to the police.
“We would urge everyone to treat the wardens and the birds with respect as adult birds will leave their nests if disturbed, leaving their eggs and chicks vulnerable to the weather and predators.
“The penalty for deliberately disturbing or damaging the nesting site is an unlimited fine and/or six months in prison. Anyone who witnesses such activity should contact the police on 101.”
Cleveland Police have said that officers will be monitoring the area.