Can you volunteer to help on Coquet Island?

Posted on 31st January 2024 | in Community , Coquet Island

Preparations for the new breeding season on Coquet Island will soon begin, with wardens starting the necessary maintenance tasks. Coquet Island is an important RSPB reserve which is home to puffins, eiders, fulmar, kittiwake and the UK’s only colony of Roseate terns, Britain’s rarest nesting seabird.

The Ambler spoke to Stephen Westerberg, RSPB site manager for the island. “We’re getting the island ready for the next breeding season, which includes doing any ground work needed, and managing the terraces for the Roseate terns. We’re really interested to know if there are any volunteers who would like to help – they would be very welcome.”

Stephen Westerberg

Volunteers would be asked to help with the maintenance, doing things like cutting the grass, moving nesting boxes and setting up hides. In addition, the RSPB would like to hear from anyone with any boat qualifications.

They are also hoping to be able to improve sanitary provision in the cottages, with the use of bottled gas power and improvements to the solar panels. Water will run though a UV filter to kill viruses.

The sanctuary is popular with between 60 – 80,000 sea birds, who return year after year. “Coquet Island has more breeding birds per square metre than any other RSPB reserve,” said Stephen.

The Ambler understands that popularity could have a double edge, as sadly it is possible that those species which nest close to one another may have experienced the worst of the impact of the Avian Flu.

Avian Flu is not far from the minds of the wardens. Two years of the deadly HPAI virus caused devastation on the bird sanctuary, and meant staff were unable to remain on the island, having instead to rely on day trips to monitor the birds. Stephen told us he was hopeful the staff would be able to remain on the island full time once again during the breeding season. “Staff will be monitoring for bird flu, and if it is detected, we may have to do day visits,” he said.

There are CCTV cameras on the island

Security is still important and the RSPB hope to improve the CCTV coverage in order to protect the birds and their eggs. Landing is not permitted on the island, and anyone disturbing the birds causing them to fly up during the breeding season is committing an offence.

However, the staff are well aware of how popular the birds are, especially the puffins. The bird cameras on the island have been in place for several years, and some of them are situated inside the nests of the Roseate terns and puffins.

“I was at the Puffin Festival last year and I know how much people want to see the puffins,” said Stephen “so we’ll make sure that the coverage continues.”

If you would like to volunteer with the wardens on Coquet Island, contact Stephen Westerberg directly:

Anna Williams


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5 thoughts on "Can you volunteer to help on Coquet Island?"

  1. Val Robinson says:

    I was very interested in your article in this months ‘The Ambler’ – I would like to help as a volunteer on coquet Island – I’m a local lass living in Amble & would like to know what requirements you need to have to become a volunteer.
    Many thanks
    Val Robinson

  2. Catherine Carus says:

    Would love to volunteer as we live opposite the island, interested to know more

  3. Bernadette Redpath says:

    Read article the Ambler, offer up any kind of volunteering support support

  4. Mona Lott says:

    I am always happy that endangered species are looked after. However.

    There must be a reason why some birds need absolute quiet whilst some, like those nesting in the hundreds of trees we have around us, are fine with the noise of traffic , periods of silence broken by a tractor going past. Or the sound of DIY near by. There is the odd flutter but they come back to their nests soon after. Why can’t Coquet birds learn to co-exist with human beings and toughen up?

    I don’t know about the terrain of this beautiful piece of landscape, but would be great if at least one half is open to public, limited numbers, for a day out, bird watching, Scouts, Guides. A nice little cafe.

    Landing on Coquet Island is strictly prohibited with dire consequences for those who dare. Maybe RSPB should be in charge of security at the shores of Dover to protect the island of Britain.

  5. Felicity Friend says:

    The thought of any of us being allowed to traipse around this precious haven for the remaining handful of roseate terns fills me with horror. We public are kept off the island for a reason! This place is not yet another potential theme park for a human day out with scones and tea. Of course we would like to be there, especially me! I like to think all of we sponsors accept the ban and appreciate it is for the good of all the sea birds, especially after two years of heartbreaking avian influenza. I lost my sponsored pair in the camera box in 2022 due to the virus after watching them for years and approve any regulations that keep risk to the remaining birds to a minimum. I hope I haven’t offended you but feel fiercely protective of this special place. There are loads of other reserves for RSPB members to visit. You could volunteer at the end of the breeding season to clean breeding boxes and help put the island to bed for the year 😀 if avian flu restrictions allow. Fingers crossed the island will be spared this year. Enjoy the camera views!

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