Why a stretch of Hartlepool beach has been suddenly sealed off
A colony of rare seabirds have prompted a beach’s partial closure after unexpectedly moving to a new home.
Hartlepool Borough Council has closed a sealed off an area of Seaton Carew’s beach after legally-protected little terns moved there in recent days.
Around 30 pairs of birds are believed to be nesting in an area that stretches from the old fairground site to near the bus station.
Weighing only 40-60g and about the size of a starling, little terns are the smallest of the five species of terns that breed in the UK.
They winter in West Africa before migrating thousands of miles to nest here from May to August and lay their well-camouflaged eggs in sand.
Graham Megson, Hartlepool Borough Council’s ecologist, said: “The nests are very difficult to spot and this makes them extremely vulnerable to disturbance and damage.
“When we became aware that little terns were nesting at Seaton Carew we took immediate steps to restrict access to the site by roping it off.
“We would urge people to respect the site and keep their distance. Adult birds will leave their nests if disturbed, leaving their eggs and chicks vulnerable to the weather and predators.
“Fortunately, this nesting site lies within the existing seasonal dog exclusion zone at Seaton Carew beach so the issue of disturbance by dogs should not be as big an issue as it might otherwise have been.
“Signs alerting members of the public to the birds’ presence have also been put up. These ask people to help us protect the birds and also warn that anyone who intentionally or recklessly disturbs the birds and their nests is committing a criminal offence punishable by a large fine.”
The birds are believed to have moved from a breeding site at Crimdon Dene.
Supported by Durham Heritage Coast, wardens from the Durham and the Tees Valley Wildlife Trusts are now closely monitoring the colony, which is one of the most significant in an area of the UK stretching from Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, to Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Hartlepool Borough Council enforcement staff are also patrolling the area.
Anyone who witnesses the site being deliberately disturbed or damaged should contact the police on 101.