GULL chicks have fledged at a south Cumbria nature reserve for the first time in six years following the installation of a predator-proof fence.

More than 100 lesser black-backed and herring gull chicks have been recorded at South Walney Nature Reserve this summer.

Sarah Dalrymple, warden at the reserve, which is run by Cumbria Wildlife Trust (CWT), said the gulls at the site fed on fish bones, mussel shells and crabs rather than in towns.

She said the population of gulls at South Walney had been in decline since a nearby rubbish tip shut in the 1990s.

“Another reason for the decline is predation - foxes only arrived on Walney Island in the 1990s and badgers about seven years ago,” she said.

Thanks to outside funding, CWT was able to build a predator-proof fence around the colony last winter.

“We then had a nervous wait to see if the eggs would hatch,” said Ms Dalrymple.

“Would the chicks survive?

“Since 2017, no chicks had survived past the first week of July.

“But a couple of weeks ago, on July 8, we had brilliant news: we found over 100 big, healthy chicks.

“The best news of all was last week, on July 16: we undertook a colony check and watched the first gull chicks take flight - the first to fledge at the nature reserve since 2015.”

She said leg rings had been put on the chicks to ensure they could be tracked and encouraged members of the public to try and take pictures, note down leg ring codes and send them to CWT if they encountered tagged gulls.