Tuesday, 27 December 2016


Earmarked as potential nesting habitat for avocets - Rosper Road pools

THE UK's most elegant wading bird, the avocet, could be breeding on the outskirts of Immingham next spring thanks to a project funded by ABP.

The ports giant has financed  creation of eight avocet-friendly islands at North East Lindsey Drainage Board's Rosper Road pools.

Avocet - the elegant wader is emblem of the RSPB

At the board's November meeting, members heard from vice-chairman Lionel Grooby that Bicker Contractors had completed the works and hopes were high that the first birds - and possibly other wading species - could be nesting on the islands as early as next spring. 

The initiative has been welcomed by Richard Barnard, Humber conservation officer for the RSPB which is concerned that, elsewhere in the area, a main avocet stronghold, Read’s Island in the Humber Estuary, is being “badly eroded along the northern shore to the point where the lagoons are not functioning as they should”.

In an authoritative  post published on the website of the Lincolnshire Bird Club, he says: “This has forced a lot of the avocets out on to the surrounding intertidal, leaving them more exposed to predation, weather and tides.

“Similarly, the vegetation on Whitton Island, another decent breeding site, is starting to develop in ways that is not ideal for avocets (or any other breeding waders). 

 “As managers of these sites, this is something that the RSPB is looking at tackling.”

Richard continues: “That aside, the situation in the upper
Humber is not ideal anyway.

“Although avocets nest colonially, the numbers and densities we see in the upper Humber are more a reflection of the historic lack of good breeding habitat around the estuary.

“Avocets are typical of early successional stage breeders. They do great in early years on new habitat but, as their colonies grow, they tend to get badly hit by predation and other density- dependant factors which drive down the productivity of a colony. 

“We are starting to see this now on a lot of the upper Humber, so what we really need on the Humber is more dynamic and smaller avocet breeding sites.

“This will allow the population to respond by moving themselves around and staying ahead of the pressures.

“It also obviously reduces the impacts on the population of failure of any one colony.

“While the estuary's islands are currently key to the breeding population, having more terrestrial sites also gives those of us who manage avocet breeding sites more flexibility about how we manage them in a given year, so that there is  more chance of having good, dynamic wetlands spread round the estuary.”

 With avocets being one of the Humber's internationally important species, those of us who manage parts of the estuary have legal duties to make sure the population is maintained.

“A big part of this is thinking about the future for the species, not just their current numbers.

"Combined with the major benefits for wintering waders and wildfowl (both roosting and feeding) that tend to go hand in hand with avocet breeding habitat creation/management, these types of project should be great for the estuary's wildlife throughout the year. 

“It is fantastic to see ABP and the drainage  taking a lead on this at Rosper Road.” 

In the medium term, there are also plans to introduce cattle to graze adjacent pasture land at the Rosper Road reserve with a view to creating winter feeding and roosting habitat for birds such as curlew, redshank and oystercatchers.

In the past, the field  had been a no-go area for livestock because the beasts were at risk from ingesting coal dust blown from a nearby storage site.

However, since reduction of imports of coal to Immingham docks, this is no longer the problem it once was.

Formerly managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the Immingham  reserve now comes under drainage board control

* Photo of avocet by Andreas Trepte  via Wikimedia Commons

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