News archive

September 2020

Friday, 25 September 2020

Spoonbills raise chicks in Suffolk for the first time in over 300 years.

Spoonbills have successfully raised chicks for the first time in Suffolk since 1668. The birds were discovered nesting on RSPB Havergate Island nature reserve, Suffolk's only island. The RSPB have been working over the last 15 years to encourage spoonbills to breed on the island and after a huge tidal surge in 2013, they with funding from Defra, lowered spillways into Havergate so it became a natural flood defence to accommodate climate-change related increases in the frequency and magnitude of North Sea surges. Over 500m of sea wall was reduced half a metre in height to allow water to flood into natural lagoons around it during storm surges. This protected the seawall around the island from mass failure and also helped protect nearby residents with additional flood storage in the lower Alde-Ore.

Spoonbills are a very rare breeding bird in the UK and recognised as a species of conservation concern. In recent years, Havergate Island staff have seen increasing numbers of visiting spoonbills, but until now, no chicks survived.

The team used a range of techniques to encourage these unique birds to nest on the site, restoring natural habitats and even putting out models of spoonbills, complete with ready made"nests". After creating special raised platforms, which mimic their natural nest sites, the visiting spoonbills began displaying breeding behaviours such as passing sticks to each other, grooming partners, preening and sleeping on the platforms.

In 2019 five pairs made nests, but sadly none were successful. Following that glimmer of hope, the team installed a 350 metre long protective fence, partially submerged in water, around the nesting site. This year over 30 spoonbills visited the island and four chicks were successfully raised from two separate nests.

Hopes are high that Spoonbills will return to Havergate Island again in subsequent years.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Black-winged stilts breed at Steart Marshes

A pair of black-winged stilts have successfully raised three young this summer at WWT Steart Marshes in Somerset. The birds chose a fenced off sheltered part of the reserve that was surrounded by deep water with plenty of overhead cover from wetland plants. The chicks hatched on 9th July and WWT reserve staff covered posts close to the nest with bird deterrents to help stop predators potentially targeting their young.

Black-winged stilts are rare breeding birds in the UK and this is the only pair known to have bred here this year. The Steart Marshes are only six years old, and the success shows how valuable this developing marsh is to waders. By carefully managing water levels throughout the year, WWT can make sure that the mud is moist and teeming with invertebrates for the birds to feast on.

As black-winged stilts tend to be site faithful, fingers are crossed that this species will return to Steart again next year.