This week sees the launch of an exciting new project to protect the rare and beautiful habitats many of our coastal birds call home.

Image: Curlew searching for food (Eleanor Bentall, RSPB Images)

Life on the Edge celebrates our coastal birds and is working to protect and restore habitats along our coastlines and estuaries, including the creation of new islands for breeding birds and defences from coastal erosion.

The UK is of global importance for migratory and wintering coastal birds. Each autumn, threatened species such as curlew, bar-tailed godwit, golden plover, brent geese and pink-footed geese flock to our shores.

Hundreds of thousands of birds gather in key estuaries such as the Wash in East Anglia, the Humber on the east coast and Morecambe Bay in the North West. It’s estimated 20 per cent of Europe’s curlew winter within the British Isles.

The evocative calls of curlew, redshank and flocks of geese are the first sign of autumn for a lot of people. The tidal mudflats and saltmarsh habitat around our English estuaries and coastlines are important feeding and roosting places for these birds.

The Life on the Edge project focuses on several key coastal and wetland reserves in England, including RSPB Titchwell, RSPB Pagham Harbour and RSPB Minsmere. There are others too, which aren’t open to the public.

These sites are a great place to spot waders and migratory birds, which arrive via the Atlantic flyway from all over the world. Birds such as curlew spend their winters along our coast, spending their time roosting and looking for food on the shore.

Many of the birds that forage for food around our coastlines need to eat huge quantities of invertebrates each day just to survive our colder winters, so any time and energy they spend evading predators can really put them at risk. This time is very important for them, as they need to build up their strength before they leave in the spring.

Birds don’t store energy in the same we do, and must constantly eat and rest if they hope to survive. They often perceive movement as a threat, which means a dog running across the mudflats or a shadow passing over them can cause them to fly away, burning up valuable energy.

This winter you can help to give wildlife space where you live by taking some simple steps:

  • Look out for feeding birds along the shoreline and give them plenty of space
  • Keep dogs on leads alongside rivers, coasts and estuaries, so that they don’t scare hidden birds roosting on the ground.
  • Share the RSPB’s new #WatchyourStepvideo to help spread the word about wonderful winter waders! 

If you want to get closer to some of these incredible birds, the best way to watch them without disturbing them is to view them from a hide or screen or take part in one of the RSPB’s upcoming wader events! RSPB members get free entry to our reserves.