Progress in conservation is often many steps along the path towards success.
The work Manx BirdLife is doing at the new Point of Ayre National Reserve includes building new islands made of gravel, but also artificial islands in the form of tern rafts. These rafts, funded by local donations and built with the help of volunteers, provide a safer habitat for ground nesting birds to lay their eggs away from easy access by feral cats, hedgehogs, polecat-ferrets and longtails.
Common Terns have not been a breeding bird on the Isle of Man for over 50 years. Within a couple of weeks of our first tern raft going out on the water last spring (complete with newly 3D-printed tern decoys to attract the birds in), a Common Tern arrived. Just a single bird, but he didn’t lack for enthusiasm. He displayed and displayed; but no matter how many fish he offered to the plastic decoys, they never responded.
This spring he once again returned to the reserve. Unfortunately, still alone but just as enthusiastic in his displays. However, later in the summer another pair of Common Terns arrived, perhaps a bit late to nest this year they too settled in and held territory.
Small steps. A bit of habitat work, a couple of rafts, lots of patience. With some luck, if the pair return next year that moves us on a big step to bringing breeding Common Terns back to the Island after 50 years. A journey worth taking.