PICTURES: Toilet tern ‘Lulu’ takes up testing nest spot

Desperate birdwatchers visiting the Farne Islands’ toilets face an unexpected tern – with a rare bird nesting just inches overhead.

An Arctic tern, which will have arrived on the remote Northumberland islands from the Antarctic in May, is incubating two eggs in the grooves of the toilet’s clear corrugated plastic roof.

Toilet tern 2 CREDIT Jen Clark, National Trust LO

An Arctic tern has built her nest on the clear plastic roof of the Farne Islands’ ladies toilet. National Trust rangers on the remote Northumberland islands have nicknamed her ‘Lulu’. CREDIT: Jen Clark/National Trust

Jen Clark, National Trust ranger, said: “It might be that she’s seen the groove in the plastic as a great place to lay her eggs. Terns like to scrape out a cup shape for their nest.

“It might be potty, but the staff are loving it. That block has three toilets in a row, but everyone’s using the two that have the best view of the tern.

“We’re calling her ‘Lulu’.”

Toilet tern 1 CREDIT Jen Clark, National Trust LO

Toilet tern 3 CREDIT Jen Clark, National Trust LO

CREDIT: Jen Clark/National Trust

It’s not the first time the island’s wildlife has taken up home in the toilets on Inner Farne.

Jen added: “We get an eider duck that nests against the toilet wall. The ducklings only just hatched and we had to lower a fence to help them off the nest.”

The National Trust has cared for the islands since 1925. Set a mile off the Northumberland coast, the islands have been protected for 189 years and are one of Britain’s oldest nature reserves. They are home to more than 96,000 pairs of seabirds, including puffins, arctic terns and eider ducks.

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Nail-biting nests in unusual places

Springwatch viewers were left on the edge of their seat early this week as they watched a family of four Jay chicks fledge from a nail-bitingly steep nest.

One fan of the smash BBC show, which is filmed at the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in the Cotswolds, calculated the angle of the precipitous nest at 35 degrees – higher than Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, one of England’s steepest roads.

The National Trust cares for 250,000 hectares of countryside and the conservation charity’s rangers have found plenty of nail-biting nests this spring

Pied wagtail, Studland Beach, Dorset

Two pied wagtail parents have found a far from rubbish nesting site in the cardboard recycling bins at the National Trust’s Studland beach visitor centre in Dorset.

Kevin Rideout, visitor experience officer, said: “They were starting to show quite a lot of interest in the bins, so I had a suspicion that they’d be there. I’m glad I checked.”

After the common black-and-white birds successfully raised four youngsters, staff at the centre thought that they would be safe to empty the bins – which are next to a busy visitor centre.

But when Kevin went to check the bins earlier this week, one of the adults flew out. “They’re onto their second brood!” he said.

After seven weeks, the bins still haven’t been emptied.

PIED WAGTAIL Studland Credit Kevin Rideout, National Trust

Pied wagtail nest in a cardboard recycling bin at Studland, Dorset. CREDIT Kevin Rideout, National Trust

Mallard, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Rangers on the remote Farne Islands discovered a mallard duck nesting beside a stack of Calor gas canisters this spring.

Jen Clark, National Trust ranger, said: “The gas is kept in a cage so that if it explodes it’s contained. There’s a tiny little gap between the wall and the cage that the duck must have crawled into.

“It’s probably just because it was a nice safe place – protected from predatators attacking from above.”

The duck’s eight chicks fledged a little over a month ago. Her gas cage nest site is yet to be used by another bird.

MALLARD Farne Islands CREDIT National Trust

A mallard duck nests next to propane canisters on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. CREDIT: Jen Clark, National Trust

Razorbill, Farne Islands, Northumberland

Around 400 razorbill couples make their nests on the steep cliffs around the Farne Islands – a mile off the Northumberland coast.

Jen Clark, National Trust ranger, said: “They tend to nest on horrible little ledges. They’re really tiny – about the size of the bird. They don’t actually build a nest – they incubate their egg directly on a small, sloping crevice.”

The black and white penguin-like birds, which are only 40cm and spend their entire winter at sea, lay just one egg a year.

The exposed nesting sites makes the eggs and chicks vulnerable to fierce North Sea weather, as well as predatory attacks by gulls.

A razorbill on the Farne Islands, Northumberland

A razorbill on the Farne Islands, Northumberland CREDIT Richard Scott, National Trust Images

Hazel dormouse, Fyne Court, Somerset

Rangers spotted this bashful dormouse was spotted squatting in a birds nest six feet above the ground.

Rob Skinner, a National Trust area ranger and licensed dormouse handler, made the discovery while checking bird nesting boxes on the Somerset estate as part of a regular survey for the British Trust for Ornithology.

He said: “I nearly fell off my ladder. It’s not something I was expecting to see. We have 93 dedicated dormouse nesting boxes in our woods – but this juvenile ignored them all.”

The dormouse stayed for three weeks before disappearing earlier this month.

DORMOUSE at Fyne Court 1 Rob Skinner, NT

Hazel dormouse at Fyne Court. CREDIT Rob Skinner, National Trust

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, Norfolk

One of Britain’s rarest seabirds nests so close to the sea it finds its nests regularly flooded.

It’s thought that there are fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs of little terns left in Britain – with numbers falling by a quarter since the 1980s. Nesting on beaches, the birds are sensitive to disturbance from people and dogs – as well as  flooding from the sea.

Ajay Tegala, National Trust ranger for the little tern stronghold at Blakeney Point, said: “They tend to lay one to three camouflaged eggs on the beach, often close to the high water mark.

“This means that nests regularly get washed away if big tides are combined with stormy weather. They’re also vulnerable from a long list of predators – gulls, birds of prey, foxes, crows, snakes and even herons.”

As part of an RSPB-led EU LIFE+ project, rangers at Blakeney Point have been using plaster models of little terns to encourage the birds to nest up the beach and away from the high tides.

Wren, Harewoods, Surrey

Despite years of hard work to improve the habitat around his National Trust cottage for nesting birds, it’s Andy Wright’s shed that is proving popular for the small birds.

Two months ago a pair of wrens built a moss nest into a coil of rope hanging from the shed roof. It was the first time wrens have nested in the wooden outhouse, which also boasted a family of robins.

Andy Wright, the trust’s countryside manager for the Surrey Hills, said: “They weaved it into the tassels of the rope. With the racket they were making there must have been four or five fledglings.

“I’ve no idea why they nested there. I’ve done a lot of habitat work around the place, so you’d think there would be plenty of natural nesting habitat for them. There’s even a wren nest in my smoker.”

WREN Harewoods CREDIT Andrew Wright, National Trust

A wren’s nest at Harewoods, Surrey. CREDIT Andrew Wright, National Trust

Field mouse, Alderley Edge, Cheshire

One small mouse chose a life in the fast lane after nesting underneath the bonnet of a National Trust van.

Christopher Widger, countryside manager at Alderley Edge, discovered the field mouse’s nesting place in the sound-deadening material beneath the bonnet – after the mouse scuttled across the windscreen wiper.

“I was travelling at 30mph!” Chris said. “I pulled over onto the verge and he made a jump for it – into the nearby hedge.”

FIELD MOUSE Alderley Edge 2 CREDIT Christopher Widger, National Trust

A field mouse nest in a ranger van at Alderley Edge, Cheshire. CREDIT Christopher Widger, National Trust

Pied wagtail, Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim

It was only on the fourth trip over a stony field that Area Ranger Dr Cliff Henry realised that his tractor had taken on some tiny stowaways

Nesting on the tractor’s drive shaft – just below the cab – was a nest containing five small pied wagtail chicks.

“Each trip took an hour,” Dr Henry said. “It was only after the last trip that I twigged that the adult birds were very keen to approach the tractor bearing food.”

The five wagtail chicks have now fledged.

PIED WAGTAIL Giant's Causeway CREDIT Cliff Henry, National Trust

A pied wagtail nest in a tractor on the Giant’s Causeway. CREDIT Cliff Henry, National Trust

PICTURES: New arrival for ‘Ronald’ the Farne Islands shag

An egg belonging to a Farne Islands shag christened ‘Ronald’ by a Year 4 class from Gateshead has hatched.
Sarah Lawrence, National Trust ranger on the remote Northumberland islands, said: “Ronald nests right next to the main jetty on Staple Island. He’s probably the most photographed shag on the island.”
Ronald the shag CREDIT Sarah Lawrence, National Trust

Ronald the shag sitting on top of ‘his’ nest on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. Credit: Sarah Lawrence/National Trust

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Embleton Bay crowned BBC Countryfile Magazine’s beach of the year

BBC Countryfile Magazine readers have crowned Embleton Bay their beach of the year.

More than 56,000 readers voted in the poll that saw the Northumberland beach, which has been cared for by the National Trust since 1961, win the beach of the year category.

View of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north West The view shows the sand dunes on Embleton Beach in evening sunlight with the ruins of the 14th century stronghold visible in the distance

View of Dunstanburgh Castle from the north West The view shows the sand dunes on Embleton Beach in evening sunlight with the ruins of the 14th century stronghold visible in the distance. Credit: National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

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First seal pups spotted on the Farne Islands

The first seal pups of the year have been spotted by National Trust rangers on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast.  Continue reading

Stormy weather and a blooming spring: a review of the year so far

Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s National Specialist on Nature, looks back at the year’s weather so far and asks what’s in store for us this summer:

“This winter was one of the stormiest on record, with a succession of powerful storms hitting our shores from 23 December right through until 24 February. So much so, in fact, that in England and Wales it was the wettest winter since 1766.

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Puffins return early to Farne Islands

Puffins have started to return to their breeding grounds two weeks early thanks to the milder spring temperatures.

Puffins on the Farne Islands, Northumberland

Rangers on the Farne Islands reported sightings of over 500 puffins on the island just yesterday. It is thought this could be one of the earliest sightings on record.

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