Little tern chicks by Lyn Ibbitson-Elks 1/5
Ringed plover nesting by Nick Goodrum 2/5
Oystercatcher by Nick Brischuk 3/5
Little tern by Nick Appleton 4/5
Holme Dunes by Richard Osbourne 5/5

Working together to protect our beach nesting birds this summer

Wednesday 06 April, 2022

Spring is in the air and Norfolk Wildlife Trust is joining with nature conservationists from across Norfolk, including the National Trust, RSPB, Natural England, Wild Ken Hill, Holkham Estate and the Norfolk Coast Partnership, to ask for your help.

This summer we are asking beach visitors to help protect some of the county's most iconic and threatened beach nesting birds.

The species of birds that raise their young on our beaches include:
  • Oystercatchers
  • Ringed plovers
  • Little terns
On sites including NWT Holme Dunes, the sea offers an all-inclusive buffet and a modest collection of stones, gravel and sand acts as their 5-star accommodation. But make no mistake, this isn't a luxury break for these birds, it is about the survival of their species.

In the last 35 years, the population of ringed plovers in Norfolk has declined by a shocking 79%, with just 123 pairs recorded in 2018.

Norfolk is the most important county in the UK for nesting little terns. In 2021, almost half of the UK population (roughly 691 pairs) of these birds were attempting to nest across the North and East of Norfolk.

Oystercatcher numbers are also dropping, seeing them join the little tern on the Amber list of conservation concern.

It is crucial that we make every effort to support our trio of feathered friends each summer. All three species lay their eggs on the beach where, unfortunately, they can easily be trodden on as they are often camouflaged in the sand. Nesting on the beach also results in a high risk of disturbance, which can cause the birds to abandon their brood.

Jonathan Preston, NWT Nature Conservation Manager, said:
"Thanks to funding from Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Habitats Monitoring and Mitigation Fund and the ENDURE sand dunes project led by Norfolk County Council we have, in recent years, been able to employ a summer warden to patrol the beach, create optimal breeding conditions, engage with visitors and monitor the activity of these three priority bird species. In 2021, support from CleySpy and Birds on the Brink has also provided us with a spotting scope for visitor activities and enabled us to put up electric fencing to keep out ground predators.

"This summer, we will once again have a dedicated warden on the beach at Holme. When visiting, we welcome you to have a chat to learn more about these special summer migrants and how you can help them during your visits to the Norfolk coast this year."

Our message to visitors is simple: You could make the difference between a successful breeding season or losing these species forever, just by following these three simple steps:
  • Stay away from fenced-off breeding areas
  • Follow directions on signs
  • Keep dogs on a lead when asked to do so
County Councillor Andrew Jamieson, Chairman of the Norfolk Coast Partnership, said:
"The Norfolk Coast Partnership is at the forefront, supporting work done by volunteers, estates and conservation organisations to protect our precious beach nesting birds. We ask that all visitors to our coast look out for these endangered birds by staying away from fenced areas during the breeding season and, where asked, by keeping dogs on leads and follow any signs."

Dominic Buscall, Manager at Wild Ken Hill, said:
"We absolutely support this initiative. To conserve and restore nature, we must all do our bit, including being respectful to our rare beach-nesting birds when visiting the coast this spring and summer."
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