Plovers in Peril: That’s a wrap!

Plovers in Peril: That’s a wrap!
Plovers in Peril Volunteer Team 2021. Image RSPB

The 2021 season for beach nesting birds has now come to an end at Snettisham and Heacham South beach.

This year, with your support we have helped to protect 44 pairs of ringed plovers from combined sites at RSPB Snettisham reserve (21 pairs), the Plovers in Peril stretch from Snettisham beach to Heacham South (20 pairs) and the 3 pairs we monitored at Heacham North. Add in the birds supported by neighbouring sites, such as the 7 pairs at RSPB Titchwell Marsh and you can see why Norfolk is so special!

With such a severe decline in the UK breeding population of these birds, echoed globally, we are so fortunate to have a number of pairs choosing to breed on our cherished part of the North West Norfolk coast. These shingle beaches support an incredible variety of rare and special wildlife and with support from people visiting the coast throughout summer, we can give them the space to thrive long into our future. A truly special thing, we can all celebrate.

WEB Credit Phill Gwilliam. Ringed plover with chick, South Heacham Beach 2021

Credit Phill Gwilliam. Ringed plover with chick, South Heacham Beach 2021

We have fledged a total of 19 chicks from these sites this year. That’s 19 chicks who have defied the challenges thrown at them by land and sea to make their first flights into the world as young ringed plovers and begin their journey to coasts beyond this one! Join with us to give them each a cheer and to wish them well on their travels – better yet, we can hope to see them return to our beaches in Spring 2022!

WEB First flights. Image credit Phill Gwilliam.

First flights. Image credit Phill Gwilliam

Though we are overjoyed to have been able to see these chicks grow and see them make strong flights to escape tides, predators and off-lead dogs with ease; there is much concern for the future of these vulnerable birds here on our coasts. A Norfolk beach absent of the sound of the ringed plovers soft rhythmic calls would be a sad loss for all those who visit.

Amongst the passionate people dedicated to creating a safer future for beach nesting birds are our volunteer beach rangers. The Plovers in Peril project began in March 2021 and we have seen 14 inspiring people join the existing team to offer up their support, protecting ringed plover families all the way through to the end of August; following the journeys of these tenacious birds from egg to chick to juvenile and one day to with hope to adulthood.

On a warm evening in the last of the light, these volunteers gathered together on the beach they have spent their summer, to celebrate their successes, share stories of joy and loss and reflect on a season spent saving Norfolk’s plovers. Volunteers, we want to say thank you to you, from the bottom of our hearts. For your time, for your passion, for your unwavering support in the face of difficulty. You are the heart of this project and we are so grateful to you for all that you do for us and for the beach nesting birds who so need our protection. Thank you.

Not all hero’s wear volunteer badges! The support from visitors to these beaches this season has been heart-warming. Support from the lovely people on these beaches whether local, holidaying or visiting for the day has on many occasions raised our spirits when times were testing. Kind words and messages of support, shared stories of the joy ringed plovers bring to peoples lives and big steps to help give them the space they need to breed safely. With 96% of visitors surveyed at Snettisham and Heacham South beach agreeing that it is important to protect beach nesting birds, it is clear to us that there is a lot of love out there for the special birds nesting on our beaches. Thank you for being a beach hero and a giving a voice to nature!

With the end of the season, fencing and signage has come down until next April and restrictions on many beaches like this one are lifted so that our four-legged friends can run free and feel the wind in their fur and sand in their paws- just in time for those golden autumn sunsets over The Wash! Though our nesting birds are no longer busy on our shores, the autumn brings the arrival of many wetland birds, some returning from a summer overseas (like the geese we are so pleased to see again!) and some passing through, taking full advantage of the rich feeding out on the vast mudflats. Help support these birds; by being mindful when out walking on the mud, keeping your distance from large flocks of resting birds and keeping dogs close to you when there are birds nearby, we can be rewarded by spectacular displays as these birds dance and gather over our autumn/winter skies.

To all those who have poured their hearts into keeping these beaches a haven for birds and people; Thank you!

We look forward to seeing you all again in Spring 2022!

From all at RSPB Plovers in Peril and the North West Norfolk reserves team.