Common Terns had their most successful breeding season for many years at East India Dock Basin nature reserve. At least 11 pairs attempted to nest on the rafts, with between 11 and 15 young terns fledging.
Terns have bred at East India Dock Basin since the mid-1990s, when three specially-designed rafts were installed to encourage nesting terns. Numbers have declined in recent years, probably due to the build up of silt in the basin, which leaves the rafts high and dry at times after long periods of low tides. This resulted in no successful breeding at the site in 2011 and 2012, as terns preferred other sites in the area, including Blackwall Basin and, across the Thames, Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. Nesting terns returned to East India Dock Basin in 2013, when seven pairs nested and eight young fledged.
This year’s welcome increase may be due in part to the rafts on Blackwall Basin becoming overgrown and less suitable for terns. Blackwall Basin is likely to become unsuitable for nesting terns in the next few years, as the marina expands as part of the Wood Wharf development. The developers, in partnership with the Canal & Rivers Trust, will provide a number of replacement rafts in the West India Docks to compensate, ensuring that terns will still have a choice of nesting sites in the borough in years to come.
Header photo by John Archer