Funding will protect priority birds at Holme

Funding will protect priority birds at Holme

Ringed plovers, little terns and oystercatchers are three of the important species to be better protected at NWT’s coastal National Nature Reserve as a new summer warden post is made possible thanks to generous funding.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust has received more than £9,000 from the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Habitat Monitoring and Mitigation (HMM) Fund to protect the nesting and breeding sites of these priority birds at NWT Holme Dunes. It has enabled NWT to employ a summer warden to prevent disturbance to the birds and hopefully improve breeding success by reducing the impacts of by increasing visitor numbers.

The project includes clearly designated areas where public access is restricted to protect breeding birds; improved monitoring of species populations, monitoring of visitor numbers using the beach and wider area; and the training of volunteers.

The UK's birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance: red, amber and green. Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. It means there has been a severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population or range. Ringed plovers are on the red list.

A small, rotund wader, the ringed plover nests on bare gravel, shingle and sand at the coast. It forages for invertebrates and crustaceans in a particular way: standing and watching, running forward, pecking, then standing still again. The ringed plover tempts underground prey to the surface by 'foot-trembling': tapping its feet fast on the ground to mimic raindrops. It is a resident species in the UK.

Little terns and oystercatchers are on the amber list, the next most critical group showing a moderate decline.

Living up to its name, the little tern is the UK's smallest tern and can be seen nesting on gravelly beaches in small colonies. It feeds just offshore, hovering above the water before diving in to catch its prey of small fish. During courtship, male little terns put on impressive aerial displays that involve carrying fish to attract mates. The females will chase them high up into the sky; the males then descending at a glide with their wings forming a 'V' shape. A summer visitor to Europe, the little tern leaves in August to spend the winter in Africa.

The oystercatcher is a very noisy wading bird with a loud 'peep-ing' call. On the coast, it specialises in eating shellfish, particularly cockles and mussels, which it either prises or hammers open with its strong, flattened bill.

Head of Nature Reserves at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Kevin Hart said:

“We are hugely grateful to the Monitoring and Mitigation Fund for their support to protect these threatened birds at NWT Holme Dunes NNR. The summer warden has now started and will patrol the stretch of beach at Holme Dunes running from Old Hunstanton to Thornham Channel where the cordoned nesting/breeding areas are situated. We hope the project will help to promote positive attitudes towards the conservation management and importantly, understanding of its ecological value and the primary purpose of the site as a nature reserve.”

The Habitat Monitoring and Mitigation (HMM) Fund has been created using levies from new housing development within the Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. The purpose of this fund is to help monitor and mitigate the adverse effects of increasing visitor numbers to Natura 2000 sites resulting from the development. The fund is being administered by the Norfolk Coast Partnership on behalf of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

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