Bumper breeding year for rare wading birds at Orford Ness, Suffolk

  • In Science
  • 2022-09-22 06:06:34Z
  • By BBC

A record number of rare wading birds have been recorded at a nature reserve by the National Trust.

The breeding redshanks were found on the remote and fragile habitat at Orford Ness in Suffolk.

The site was once used as a military test facility by the Ministry of Defence and is now a national nature reserve.

The trust said rangers and volunteers who surveyed the area between April and July recorded 51 pairs of redshanks.

The survey found saw the highest number of breeding pairs of the rare birds - which are "amber listed" over conservation concerns - since records began in 2005.

Surveys also showed it was the second best year for lapwings, which are on the red list of birds most at risk in the UK, and also for amber-listed avocets at the site.

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The National Trust said the increase in numbers was the result of careful management of the landscape to create the right habitats for the birds to nest in the main breeding sites of King's Marsh and Airfield Marsh.

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," he added.

"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 team also use a network of sluices and drainage systems to keep the water in the lagoons at the right level, but say the recent heatwave and sustained periods of hot weather have been difficult for the birds as the marshes have not been as wet.

Mr Cooper said: "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."

Overall numbers were just short of the best ever year, due to predators such as marsh harriers and corvids, but they are also part of the healthy ecosystem on the reserve, the National Trust said.

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