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Record tern numbers at Moray Firth raft site, says RSPB

image captionCommon terns fly from west Africa to breed on the Moray and Cromarty firths

Breeding pairs of common terns in the Moray Firth are at their highest recorded level, according to the RSPB.

The conservation charity has counted 230 pairs nesting on artificial rafts at Avoch.

On another raft at Foulis on the Cromarty Firth, 95 pairs have been spotted.

The rafts which have been provided over the last 12 breeding seasons were recently repaired. The terns migrate to Scotland from west Africa.

Brian Etheridge, of RSPB Scotland, said it could be a good year for the birds.

He said: "This is the highest number ever which is great news.

"The Moray Firth has a very important population of common terns.

image captionThe rafts have been given greater protection against mink and otters

"These beautiful birds, which travel here from west Africa every year, are very vulnerable when they attempt to breed.

"Traditionally they chose shingle and sandy beaches on the coast but, over the years, these locations have become problematic because of disturbance."

The rafts were donated by a fish farm business that operated from Avoch.

Last year, a breeding colony failed after an otter or mink got on to a raft and attacked the birds.

The sides of the rafts have been raised in an effort to avoid a similar incident.

Artificial rafts have also been used on lochs in the north west Highlands in an effort to boost numbers of rare black-throated divers.

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