Nesting rafts for terns are once again floating in Millwall Inner Dock after an absence of several years.
Two rafts were installed in early February by Ballymore, working with the Canal & River Trust, as part of the ecological enhancements required under the planning permission for the Design Cube. In addition to the rafts, gabion planters full of mixed native wetland vegetation have been fixed to the edges of the Design Cube’s floating pontoon. These will provide habitat for nesting water birds such as Coots and Moorhens, as well as for a range of invertebrates.
The rafts are specially designed for terns. The top is covered in shingle, the preferred nesting habitat of terns. Brick shelters protect chicks from the weather and from predators such as gulls and crows, and mesh sides prevent chicks from falling into the water before they can fly.
Tern rafts were first introduced into the docks, including Millwall Inner Dock, in the early 1990s by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). One or two pairs of Common Terns nested on the rafts in Millwall Inner Dock for a number of years, but the rafts gradually fell into disrepair, and became covered in vegetation and unsuitable for terns. The same has happened in Blackwall Basin and other docks in the borough where rafts were installed, so that the only LDDC rafts till in use by terns are at East India Dock Basin Nature Reserve, where several pairs of Common Terns have nested successfully in recent years. The Common Tern is a priority species under the Tower Hamlets Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
These new rafts, and additional rafts soon to be introduced elsewhere in the docks as part of the ecological mitigation and enhancements required for the huge Wood Wharf development, will help to give terns a choice of places to nest, and should ensure that the Common Tern population in Tower Hamlets continues to thrive. Fingers crossed that the terns take a liking to them when they arrive this spring.