Bumper year for breeding wading birds at coastal site in Suffolk - National Trust

Lapwing chick on Orford Ness ©Sam Cooper
Lapwing chick on Orford Ness ©Sam Cooper

National Trust rangers at Orford Ness in Suffolk are celebrating a successful nesting season for the wading birds that migrate to live on the shingle spit for some of the year.

Surveys by the team and volunteers between April and July recorded 51 pairs of rare and at risk redshanks, the highest number of breeding pairs since recording began in 2005, with this year also being the second highest number of breeding pairs of lapwing and avocet.
The big increase in numbers is the result of careful management of the landscape to create ideal habitats for the birds to nest. The main breeding sites of Kings Marsh and Airfield Marsh were historically used for military experiments by the Ministry of Defence but are now brackish lagoons thriving with wildlife.
Sam Cooper, Area Ranger for the National Trust at Orford Ness said “It’s a team effort to look after the nesting sites, so we are really pleased to see this increase of breeding pairs. The birds like slightly different nesting habitats - avocets and lapwings like to nest in the open wetland, but the redshank prefer tussocks, or clumps of short damp grass - so we use a variety of mowing, brush cutting and the sheep graze the land to create a mosaic of long and short grass. It’s also important to maintain optimum water levels on the marsh and we use a network of sluices and drainage systems across the island to make sure the levels are just right. The islands in the lagoons protect the birds from land-based predators such as foxes and limit disturbance from Chinese Water Deer, and they are also ideal conditions for invertebrate such as shrimp, which are an excellent source of food for the birds. The recent heatwave and sustained periods of hot weather have been difficult for the birds and other species as the marshes haven’t been as wet as we’d like them to be. If we continue to have more hot weather as predicted due to climate change this will have a really negative impact on the habitats for all wildlife that live on Orford Ness.”

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Posted On: 22/09/2022

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