Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 15:38 UK

Rare seabird sees breeding boost

Little tern
The little tern is one of Britain's rarest sea birds

A colony of rare birds in County Durham has battled back from near-disaster to produce a record breeding year.

Little terns nesting on the beach at Crimdon Dene on the East Durham coast, were under threat after suffering from predator attacks.

Chick numbers plummeted from more than 60 to just 18 in June after attacks from foxes and birds of prey.

But after intervention from conservationists their numbers have risen to almost 70.

Volunteers from the Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA) erected a protective fence inside which the birds could nest.

INCA spokesman Ken Smith said: "It was a dispiriting situation. As a result of all this disturbance, the adults birds were spending less and less time on the beach, only returning briefly to feed chicks.

"At times, one would not have thought there was a colony there at all.

"Gradually, numbers of chicks fledged and flying with their parents rose to 67, which is very satisfactory and amazing given the level of predation."

The little tern is one of the rarest tern in the UK, with only 2,000 breeding pairs a year.

Protective fence for tern colony
12 May 05 |  Norfolk
Turnaround for little terns
19 Sep 03 |  Norfolk
Vanishing terns baffles experts
29 May 03 |  Norfolk

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