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Scottish Wildlife Trust pushes the boat out at launch of new maternity ward for terns

Staff and volunteers at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve in Angus have launched a new raft especially designed as a maternity ward for rare Arctic terns. The hope is that this new “des res” will become more attractive to breeding pairs than the gravel areas at the nearby GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) factory. 

Thanks to the members of the local Yacht Club who towed and secured the raft in place, “Maid of Sterna Stuff” (a play on the bird’s Latin name Sterna Paradisaea) is now already attracting bird interest. Neil Mitchell, SWT Montrose Ranger said: ”With the breeding season just underway for terns in Scotland, we were unsure whether the birds would use the raft this year. However within 24 hours of the raft being put in place, birds were behaving territorially and we are hopeful that over the next few days our first tern will take up official residence. The early signs are definitely encouraging and we hope that the raft will be used this season and for many more seasons to come helping establish a breeding site for these important birds within the safety of the Basin.”

GSK donated £10,000 to the project which was also supported by Scottish Natural Heritage. The raft, measuring 8 m by 8 m, in now moored opposite SWT’s visitor centre at Rossie Braes. Visitors to the centre will be able to watch the progress of the birds from the viewing gallery using the high-powered binoculars available.

GSK manufacture active ingredients for pharmaceuticals on a site on the north side of the River South Esk estuary. Alan Catterall, Site Director, said: “In previous years, once the birds had established their nests on our site we left them to get on with raising their young. However they can be a bit of a problem, particularly if any members of staff get too close to what the birds consider their territory. We have had incidences of staff being dive-bombed as the birds became protective of  their nest sites. By helping to support the work of the wildlife partnership we hope that birds will take up residence in the Basin rather than the factory. It is good to see that the raft has been launched successfully and is already generating interest. ”

The raft is part of a wildlife management strategy which has actively been considering ways to persuade terns that the 750 hectares tidal Basin offers a better sanctuary to raise their broods.

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