'Disastrous' breeding season for avocet
A DISASTROUS breeding season has been recorded in Suffolk for the avocet - the bird which is the national emblem of the RSPB.More than 100 pairs nested at Minsmere and 45 pairs at Havergate Island, near Orford, but all the young were eaten by predators, mainly gulls, it was disclosed yesterday.
By David Green
A DISASTROUS breeding season has been recorded in Suffolk for the avocet - the bird which is the national emblem of the RSPB.
More than 100 pairs nested at Minsmere and 45 pairs at Havergate Island, near Orford, but all the young were eaten by predators, mainly gulls, it was disclosed yesterday.
Now discussions are to take place for future protection of the avocets which are also vulnerable to predation by foxes.
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Ian Barthorpe, RSPB spokesman, said it was not unusual for the older, established colonies of avocets to have poor breeding success - because they increasingly attracted predators - but the results for this year were disappointing.
Part of the problem was that chicks had hatched over a long period and had been picked off by lesser black-backed and herring gulls.
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“If they all hatch at the same time, as happened at Minsmere last year, then some always survive,” he said.
While Havergate's avocet breeding population was declining, the island still played host to 1,000 of the birds each winter.
Mr Barthorpe said the avocet was regarded as a pioneer species, doing well on new sites for a number of years until predator number increased.
The bird had established new colonies elsewhere in England and some of these were doing very well.
RSPB officials are to hold talks on what can be done to protect local avocet populations.
However, culling will not be an option because this is contrary to RSPB policy and, indeed, gull populations at nearby Orford Ness are nationally important.
“We have tried to disturb their nests at Havergate on a number of previous occasions but this has had limited success,” Mr Barthorpe said.
Electric fences have been used at Orford Ness and Havergate to protect nesting birds from foxes, some of which swim across to the sites.
Breeding success was recorded along some other species along the Suffolk coast, notably a pair of rare stone curlews which reared two broods of young at Minsmere.
Bitterns increased once more - at Minsmere, the North Warren reserve near Aldeburgh and at Dingle Marshes, near Dunwich.
Marsh harrier also continue to thrive on the Suffolk coastal strip with 12 nests at Minsmere producing 27 young and others hatching at North Warren and Dingle Marshes.
Little terns at Minsmere were disturbed early in the nesting season when the air ambulance had to land on the nearby beach and although nine pairs eventually nested, no young were raised.