Wynona Legg, Ringed Plover Project Officer, updates about our exciting funding news

Header image: Ringed plover fledgling taking its first flight. Credit: Phill Gwilliam

We are thrilled to announce that our Plovers in Peril project, working to protect threatened beach nesting birds in Norfolk, has been awarded vital funding to continue its work over five years until 2026. 

The funding, which totals more than £135,000, is a lifeline for Norfolk’s iconic wildlife, including beach nesting bird populations, at a time where recreational pressure is pushing many already struggling species into further decline. 

This support from Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk’s Habitats Monitoring and Mitigation Fund will directly benefit the Plovers in Peril project which was launched in Spring 2021 to reverse the declines of ringed plovers and oystercatchers, two of the ground nesting birds which breed on the popular beaches of Snettisham and Heacham South.

The exciting partnership with Wild Ken Hill, which featured on BBC’s Springwatch earlier this year, has enabled a dedicated team of staff and volunteers to protect these vulnerable birds’ nests by keeping them safe with new fences, signs and daily conversations with those visiting the beaches during the nesting season.

Over the past 6 months, the project has taken the first steps on these two previously unmonitored sites to protect nests and monitor not only breeding birds but also the impact of visitors on the bird’s behaviour.

Our dedicated team of volunteers have been busy engaging with beach users and gathering vital information on how beaches are used by both nesting birds and people throughout the season.

Forging stronger links with local communities to find the best ways to help these birds thrive alongside our enjoyment for the coast, we have been helping to connect local people with the wildlife of Norfolk and increase visitor awareness of the challenges these birds face. We want to empower local people to be custodians of the wildlife on their local beaches.

MP James Wild visited the project during the recent nesting season and was able to see first-hand some of these challenges: “The Norfolk coast holds a large proportion of England’s breeding ringed plovers which are in worrying decline. I know from visiting the project that the team work tirelessly to monitor and protect these red-listed birds and I was pleased to support the extension of the project which will hopefully be a catalyst in reversing the population decline.”

With longer term funding now secured, the project can build on the successes of the first year and drive forward the changes that will give these birds a brighter future. The project also has ambitions to join up with other important sites on the Norfolk coast to harness a collective approach to species protection across the wider West Norfolk landscape.

Working more closely with the local communities, whose support has already been inspiring, the project team aim to forge new links with residents, schools and local businesses and to generate exciting new ways to help more people connect with the wildlife that call these beaches home.

James Wild MP visiting the Plovers in Peril team, summer 2021. Image credit: Ian Burt

Dominic Buscall, project manager for Wild Ken Hill, shared his support for the projects future and excitement for collaboration as we look ahead to the next five years:   "We are delighted that the RSPB have received a further five years of funding to support the important Plovers in Peril project, which covers part of the Wild Ken Hill project. In the face of a biodiversity crisis, we must all do our bit to aid the recovery of rare ground-nesting birds and we look forward to working with our local communities to assist nature's recovery".

If you would like to find out more about Plovers in Peril or register your interest in volunteering with this project as a beach ranger next season (April – August 2022) at RSPB Snettisham, Heacham South Beach or RSPB Titchwell Marsh, please get in touch with Wynona, RSPB Project Officer, by emailing Wynona.Legg@rspb.org.uk

Ringed plover chicks on South Heacham beach. Image credit: Phill Gwilliam.