Share our shores

The North Norfolk Coast has some of the largest areas of undeveloped coastal habitat in Europe making it incredibly rich in wildlife throughout the year. As a result, our landscape is protected at the national and international level.  During the spring and summer many of Norfolk’s beaches are home to breeding ringed plovers, oystercatchers and little terns in important numbers. Yet, they are suffering significant declines. The little tern is one of Britain’s rarest breeding seabird with just 1500 pairs in the whole of the UK. A third of this population breeds in Norfolk alone. The Norfolk ringed plover breeding population has declined by 70% in just 30 years with just 123 pairs recorded in 2018.

Ringed Plover (RSPB Images)

Beach nesting birds

Ringed plovers and oystercatchers do not make a traditional bird’s nest of twigs and vegetation in dense trees, scrub or grassland.  Instead they make a shallow scrape in the sand or shingle on the beach to lay their eggs. They tend to avoid areas of vegetation so that they have a clear line of sight of approaching predators. Their eggs and chicks have evolved to camouflage with their environment making it difficult for us to see.  This makes them vulnerable to being trampled.

Little Tern chick and egg (RSPB Images)

From late February and early March Ringed Plovers are already moving into their breeding territories. From April onwards ringed plovers and oystercatchers can be found nesting along the beaches, rearing at least 1 brood per season.

Signs of disturbance

Beach nesting birds view people and all dogs as a threat to their nest or chicks and so the birds will react.

  • They may make an alarm call – signalling they are not happy
  • Ringed plovers often pretend to have a broken wing to distract you from their nest
  • Some birds may dive bomb you – this is a clear threat and you should leave
  • Some will show more subtle behaviour – circling above for instance

Disturbance can lead to

  • birds failing to nest and abandoning the site;
  • eggs being exposed to hot sunshine, rain or wind and failing to hatch;
  • chicks dying from adverse weather conditions or lack of food;
  • exposed eggs and chicks becoming vulnerable to predators such as kestrels, crows and gulls;
  • accidental trampling of the nest containing eggs or defenceless chicks

What are we doing at Titchwell?

This year at Titchwell we are trailing a new approach to how we manage the beach to benefit people, dogs and wildlife. There will be two rope cordons on the beach to reduce trampling and disturbance. If you are walking on the beach please give the cordon some room and if you bring your dog with you, we ask you keep it on the lead when you head right towards Brancaster. If you would like to let you dog off a lead, then we are asking that you walk left towards Thornham until you reach our second cordon. We will have this in place from March – August whilst the birds are breeding and rearing their young.

How you can help?

With your help we can all play our part in ensuring Norfolk’s beach nesting birds can rear their next generation. These birds need space to breed undisturbed so a few changes to our behaviour could make all the difference:

  1. Respect the signage located along the coast signalling beach nesting birds are present.
  2. Respect beach cordons; they are there to protect beach nesting birds from being trampled.
  3. Walk along the water’s edge or on the coastal path where they exist.
  4. Beach nesting birds use camouflage to keep eggs and chicks safe – watch where you walk!
  5. Be aware of the birds’ activity – do they appear agitated? Are the terns dive bombing you? If yes, carefully move away.
  6. Please keep dogs on leads and under close control.
  7. Don’t leave or bury rubbish or food scraps on beaches - this may attract predators or birds can become tangled up in the rubbish.

Ringed Plover chick (Les Bunyan)