Visitors to the RSPB Dungeness reserve in Kent can now get even closer to wildlife, thanks to a major uplift to Burrowes pit.

The project hopes to encourage rare terns, as well as more common species, to flock to and breed on the shingle islands overlooked by the visitor centre.

 To complete the unique redevelopment project an excavator was mounted on a floating pontoon and ferried into place across the large flooded quarry pit, before excavating submerged shingle from around the foot of the islands. This recycled material was then dispersed across the islands to safeguard breeding birds from rising water levels.

“Through this vital conservation work we hope to improve habitats for several threated seabird species, which have suffered severe population declines in the UK. It will bring real benefits for people too, particularly those with accessibility needs, making it easier to watch birds flock and feed on the islands right outside the windows all year round” Louise Kelly, Visitor experience officer.

The works were due to be completed by late October, when the RSPB reserve becomes a haven for thousands of wintering wildfowl, but were finished over six weeks ahead of schedule. A total of 45 islands were raised and are already attracting early migratory birds, thought to be arriving to the UK as a result of the strong winds in recent weeks. Several spoonbill and a roost of over 500 oyster catchers have already been recorded using the site since the improvement works were completed.

The project is the largest single investment at RSPB Dungeness for over 13 years and funded by money raised from RSPB memberships and visitors to the site, as well as a donation of £48,200 from environmental company, Viridor Credits.

Gareth Williams, Operations Manager at Viridor Credits added: “Improving the UK’s biodiversity is a major aim of both Viridor Credits and the Landfill Communities Fund. We are grateful to the RSPB for helping to deliver this aim through the invaluable work they do for our environment.”

The Whitehead Monckton Charitable Trust donated a further £3,000 to help pay for a boat, which will enable the reserve team to undertake future habitat management on the islands more easily.  

RSPB Dungeness was purchased in 1930, making it the oldest existing RSPB reserve, and it was the first RSPB site to employ staff to protect the rare birds nesting there. The visitor centre is open to visitors daily (except December 25 and 26) from 10 am-5 pm (closes 4 pm November - February).