Hopes for bright future for redshanks in Suffolk

A redshank feeding on the shore at Iken.

Redshank populations in Suffolk have improved thanks to conservation work - Credit: citizenside.com/Colin Barley

With their black tipped beak and speckled belly, redshanks are one of Suffolk's most striking wading birds. 

In recent years the species have struggled in the UK, now however, it's hoped that new projects will help keep populations strong in Suffolk.

"Nationally redshanks are amber listed which means its a bird of conservation concern," said Jamie Murphy, a conservation officer for the RSPB in Suffolk. 

"Its breeding population nationally has declined by 44% in the last 25 years."

Redshanks are also struggling in Suffolk and Essex. 

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The birds are ground-nesting, and typically nest in wet grassland or at salt marshes. 

"So they are quite vulnerable," said Mr Murphy. 

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In the past the populations were split between these two habitats evenly but today there's been a big decline in the number of salt marsh breeding redshanks.

"They are now very concentrated in nature reserves," said Mr Murphy. 

"Where the management is right for the birds to breed."

Sea-level rise from climate change has flooded out the areas that the redshanks would traditionally breed in on the salt marshes and a lack of water in grassland areas has meant the food they usually eat is not there. 

One of the areas where the birds are most likely to be spotted is Cattawade Marshes, an RSPB managed site near Manningtree.

Redshanks remain in Britain all year round and move to the coasts and estuaries in the autumn/winter period and typically feed on mudflats. 

"They are vulnerable throughout the winter period from disturbance," said Mr Murphy. 

"This could be from people walking, it could be from dogs, it could be from people using kayaks and canoes. 

"When people get too close to them instead of using their energy on eating or resting they are spending the energy on escaping from perceived threats.

"If it happens enough it can threaten the survival of the birds."

A number of organisations in Suffolk including the RSPB are working to help birds like redshanks.

"Because of those interventions on the Suffolk coast the population of breeding redshanks on wet grassland habitats has actually increased in the last 20 years," said Mr Murphy. 

"It's not back at the levels it was before but because of these interventions its starting to look better now."

The Suffolk Coast AONB is also working on projects to help the redshanks, including raising awareness with visitors to coastal paths. 

Mr Murphy it is important that those visiting the coast keep their distance from the birds.  

"When people are planning visits, if they are planning on going walking or kayaking look into the area first and pay attention to signs on the coast paths," said Mr Murphy. 

"If people notice birds are moving away that's a sign they've got too close.

"We want people to enjoy them but it's keeping enough distance so they can see them without causing any damage."

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