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Industrial jetties and nesting birds

ConocoPhillips, Seal Sands

In October 1975 the ConocoPhillips Teesside Norsea Terminal was opened, allowing the processing and export of oil products transported from the Norwegian sector of the North Sea via a 356km pipeline. The crude oil and NGL (Natural Gas Liquids) are desalted, fractionated and polished at the facility before the stabilised crude oil and NGL products are stored and exported around the world. On average, one oil tanker docks at the jetties at Seal Sands almost every other day.

Being a safe location close to the Estuary mouth, the jetties soon proved attractive to roosting Cormorants Phalocrocorax carbo, and to this day these structures are used by most of the Tees population which currently averages 325 birds. The peak Cormorant count on the jetties in recent years was 392 in September 2016.

Since at least 2002 Kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla have nested on certain of the jetties (Blick, undated). INCA has monitored this colony on an annual basis from 2005, when 101 nests were counted. By 2014 the population had doubled to 203 nests, while improved boat-based survey methods introduced in 2018 yielded an excellent count of 377 nests, with the most recent count in 2023 identifying 280 nests and a thriving population.

Shags are now breeding on Teesside, making use of modern industrial structures; in this case the ConocoPhillips jetties.

While Shags Phalocrocorax aristotelis have long been suspected of breeding beneath the jetty superstructures, it was not until 2018 that a nest was located; the first confirmed breeding in the former county of Cleveland. Incredibly, no fewer than 10 nests were found the following year.  On 29 May 2019 a colour-ringed Shag was noted here; it had been ringed as a nestling on the Farne Islands on 26 June 2010 and was seen at Kirkcaldy on the Fife coast later that year; subsequently it has been recorded at Teesmouth in 2014, 2015 and 2016.