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Rare birds nesting in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 05:46 30 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:13 24 February 2010

CONSERVATIONISTS believe that Suffolk's first breeding colony of a rare bird is about to be established near the shore of one of the county's major estuaries.

CONSERVATIONISTS believe that Suffolk's first breeding colony of a rare bird is about to be established near the shore of one of the county's major estuaries.

A pair of little egrets – small, white, heron-like birds with a plume of head feathers – nested last year on the edge of Loom Pit Lake, upstream of Levington Marina and near the Trimley Marshes nature reserve.

Now dozens of the birds are roosting around the lake and hopes are high that many of them will stay to breed.

Global warming may be the reason for the spread north of the birds which are usually found in the hotter regions of the world.

They appeared on the south coast of England a few years ago after crossing the Channel from France. A few have bred on the north Norfolk coast.

Mick Wright, warden of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Trimley Marshes reserve and a leading ornithologist, said the arrival of the egrets at Levington was “brilliant news”.

Up to 47 of the birds had been counted at one time roosting in the trees around the lake – used by anglers and forming one of the most beautiful and peaceful wildlife sites in the area.

The lake, owned by Trinity College, Cambridge, was alive with ducks such as the gadwall and shoveller and a bittern had been seen there during some winters.

English Nature is currently in the process of consulting over a proposal to designate the lake as a Site of Special Scientific Interest – which will give it legal protection as a wildlife habitat.

Mr Wright said the egrets were thought to have colonised the lake after recognising it as a safe haven – partly because of the presence of cormorants.

The arrival of the egrets was particularly welcome at a time when other birds in the Stour and Orwell Estuary area were not doing well.

“Nine species of wading bird, including dunlin, ringed plover and turnstone are all increasing in other estuaries but are in decline around here and it has led to English Nature calling for research,” he said.

Renny Henderson, a conservation officer with the RSPB at its regional headquarters in East Anglia, said: “Until recent years little egrets were almost unknown in Britain but numbers are increasing – it is the furthest north they have ever been seen.”

Mr Henderson said the birds had been doing well on the European mainland because they had been less persecuted in recent years.

“They are fully protected by European and UK Government law,” he added.

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