Flooding hits nesting wading birds


The recent flooding has hit hundreds of nesting wading birds at nature reserves, the RSPB has said.

The wildlife charity said several of its 206 nature reserves had been flooded, including the Ouse Washes in East Anglia, which is under 6ft of water after the wettest April on record.

An estimated 600 wading birds on the reserve have seen their nests and breeding attempts destroyed, including almost two-fifths (37 per cent) of England and Wales's lowland snipe, as well as redshank, lapwing and rare black-tailed godwits.

The RSPB said it could take three to six weeks to get the water back down, even if it stops raining, potentially too late for the birds to attempt to nest again.

The charity's reserve managers have been attempting to manage water levels at a number of wetland nature sites in the face of drought, and conditions have now swung from one extreme to the other with land inundated with flood water.

Minsmere on the Suffolk coast is among the reserves hit, with avocet and black-headed gulls seeing their nests washed away, while Fairburn Ings near Leeds and Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex have also been affected.

The Ouse Washes, used as part of the flood relief system for the River Great Ouse, was hit by flooding after the Environment Agency was forced to open sluices on to the washes to prevent floods elsewhere on the 150-mile river catchment.

The RSPB said the Environment Agency was working hard to find replacement land that can be managed for the birds to nest in, taking pressure off the Ouse Washes which is designated as an internationally important "special protected area" for birds.

Jon Reeves, site manager at the RSPB's Ouse Washes, said: "Following centuries of land drainage across the UK, the Ouse Washes is now the most important stronghold for these birds after they have been largely forced out of other sites.

"Literally, we have all our eggs in one basket and we've lost them.

"It's devastating to watch the nests succumb to the rising waters without being able to do anything to prevent it."

There was a miraculous escape from the floods for one coot family at Fairburn Ings, however, when the nest full of eggs was washed away. The nest floated like a little life raft to a new spot around 30 metres away where the eggs were able to hatch.