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Terns get a new home in Dunbar

Nesting raft at Whitesands Quarry

Junior Rangers and RNLI team up to create new nesting raft at Lafarge Tarmac’s Whitesands Quarry

TERNS now have a new home in the Dunbar area thanks to the East Lothian Junior Rangers and RNLI, who have teamed up with Lafarge Tarmac and RSPB Scotland to build and launch a new nesting raft in the regenerating Whitesands Quarry at Oxwellmains, east of Dunbar.

The raft, which is 16 square metres in area and covered in gravel, has been moored on the water body near the public viewing area that was built in 2012. The Junior Rangers, a group of 11 to 17-year-olds set up by the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service to study conservation work and practical habitat management, were responsible for making sure the gravel on the base of the raft was the perfect depth for nesting terns.

Stuart Pirie and his crew from the RNLI Dunbar station then towed the raft out and secured it in position using one of their inshore lifeboats.

Junior ranger Katie Belton said the raft showed her that projects did not have to take years to make a difference. ‘We’ve hopefully improved the habitat for terns in just a few hours. I’m looking forward to coming to the viewing area over the summer and just sitting and eating biscuits and watching the terns using the raft!’

According to RSPB Scotland’s Mike Thornton, the project officer appointed by Lafarge Tarmac to develop plans for the former quarry, tern numbers have suffered across Britain due to the loss of nesting sites. He said that, in time, the raft should provide a secure nesting habitat for terns which have suffered from habitat loss and nest predation along the east coast of Scotland.

‘Terns were fairly common in the past but disturbance from humans and dogs along the coast, and attacks on eggs and young chicks by predators, have all taken their toll. Even new sea defences at sites around our coastline have reduced the available nesting habitat for these birds,’ explained Mr Thornton.

‘The installation of this tern raft marks the beginning of an exciting, long-term programme of habitat creation and restoration for this old quarry site. The use of tern rafts and floating islands can offer an effective way to provide important undisturbed habitat in a deep-water lake for ground-nesting birds such as terns and some wader species. It’s a great addition to Whitesands Quarry and to East Lothian birdlife as a whole, and will give visitors to the viewing area even more to look at.’

Florin Stoiean, manager at Lafarge Tarmac’s Dunbar cement plant, added: ‘We are working with  RSPB Scotland to create a vision for restoring the quarry in a way that enhances and encourages biodiversity, and creates a great amenity for local communities.

‘A year into this project, we are delighted with the ideas Mike has come up with and the way in which the area is taking shape. We would like to express our thanks to the Junior Rangers and the RNLI, and hope to see many visitors this summer heading to the viewing area to see the new raft.’

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