Conservationists are celebrating the incredible sight of spoonbill chicks taking flight for the first time in three centuries in Suffolk after a wildlife haven was revamped to protect the island from storm surges.
Rare birds, spoonbills, have successfully raised chicks for the first time in Suffolk since 16681. 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.
After a huge tidal surge in 2013, the RSPB, 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.
The Environment Agency said in 2013 the work was being carried out as part of research to develop their understanding of how natural flood management can protect residents from the risk of increased flooding in the future.
Aaron Howe, RSPB South Suffolk Sites Manager said: “We never gave up the hope spoonbill fledglings would take that very first, special flight from Havergate island once again. During lockdown at the RSPB we heard time and time again from people how they reconnected with the wildlife on their doorstep like never before and found solace in nature. We hope the news that these rare and incredible birds had a breakthrough after 15 years work will help raise people’s spirits.”