A Plovers in Peril project update from Wynona & Ben...

We are super excited to share news that the first ringed plover nests of the season have appeared on the beaches at Heacham South and Snettisham, a special strip of coast home to declining numbers of breeding ringed plover and oystercatcher during the summer months.

The first ringed plover nest was found earlier this week by our wonderful volunteers who spend a huge amount of their time here on their local beach watching these incredible birds and following their journey to breed here.

A ringed plover nest. Image: Wynona Legg.

The warm weather this spring has clearly got the ringed plover going a little earlier than last year with birds seen nest building and mating from early March. Things have been steadily building up over the last few weeks with lots of activity, but they’ve sure been keeping us on our toes as to when the first nest would appear!

News of first ringed plover nests has been reaching us from neighbouring sites across Norfolk too as the birds start to settle in for the season and gear up for the challenges that lay ahead for all beach nesting birds and their precious cargo. Its an exciting time but means we must be extra careful when we plan our trip to the beach.

How the Plovers in Peril project are helping beach nesting birds on these beaches:

  • Fences – nesting sites here have been fenced off from March to provide safe areas for the birds to breed on the upper beach. Using nest records from last year we have been able to install fencing that will protect the most vulnerable nests on these beaches from accidental trampling or disturbance from people and dogs through every critical stage of the season. So far it looks like the birds are happy with our fence placement as the bravest birds have started to lay their very first eggs on the sand and shingle inside them.
  • Signage – we have worked hard to improve our signage at this important nesting site which gets a lot of visitor footfall across a big area, to help visitors stay in the know. Signs on site inform visitors which birds are nesting here and when, but also simple ways they can help ensure the survival of nesting birds, their eggs and chicks during their visit.
  • Dogs on leads please from March until end of August – dogs are welcomed at Snettisham and Heacham South Beach throughout the year (we love to meet them!), but they must be on a lead from March to the End of August. There will be some places where you can let your dog run free but please read signs to find out where. Nesting birds are easily scared away by dogs off their leads, leaving their eggs vulnerable to predators and the effects of weather and harmful temperatures. Keeping dogs on leads during the season can make a big difference to their survival. 
  • Volunteers – we have a wonderful team of volunteers who are out and about on these beaches throughout nesting season, chatting to visitors about beach nesting birds and doing their best to keep nesting birds safe from harm.
  • Monitoring – project staff and volunteers carefully monitor breeding pairs through the season so that we can better understand the myriad of threats facing beach nesting birds and find solutions that will ensure their long-term survival.

 

Safeguarding areas for beach nesting birds. Image: Steve Rowland.

How we can all help beach nesting birds on these beaches

  • Read signage on arrival and during your visit to find out about restrictions and key information.
  • Keep dogs on leads when requested (March – End of August).
  • Keep your distance from fenced areas (to avoid scaring birds off their nest).
  • Watch your step – birds sometimes make their nests outside of fenced off areas and there is always a chance we haven’t spotted it just yet. The eggs are hard to see with wonderful camouflage so when on the upper beach, always keep an eye to the ground and watch your step to keep them safe.
  • Ask staff and volunteers – they are here to help and will always have lots of lovely stories to share about the birds’ journeys through the season.

Other ways to help beach nesting birds:

  • Get involved – we will be organising some small events across the season – come and join us!
  • Volunteer with us – we are looking for volunteers! Click here to find out more and how to apply.
  • Spread the word about beach nesting birds! They need our support more than ever!
  • Join the conversation by following @RSPBTitchwell on Facebook or Twitter or by reading our community blog at rspb.org.uk/Snettisham
  • Get in touch! Email titchwell@rspb.org.uk We would love to hear from you – your voice matters to us. 

 

By doing these simple things on your visit to the beach through the nesting season, you can help these precious eggs become chicks, and chicks become adult birds that may return year after year, filling the skies with their joyful flights and wonderful rhythmic calls – the best soundtrack to our cold water swim or walk by the coast.

A fledgling from 2021 taking its first flight. Image: Phill Gwilliam.

In Norfolk we are lucky to have some incredibly rare and special birds breeding on our beaches; with the collective help of our communities from the people who manage them to the people who visit them again and again, we can all play a part in giving wildlife space to thrive.

RSPB’s Plovers in Peril Project is in partnership with Wild Ken Hill and is funded by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk through the Habitats Monitoring and Mitigation Fund. Our work has been generously supported by Natural England.

Anonymous