A ringed plover chick at Seahouses

Little chicks need your help!

The miracle of spring migration is under way and preparations are being finalised to help our feathered friends, as well as people, feel welcome on our beaches.

For the Council’s wildlife rangers on the Space for Shorebirds team, spring is a busy time of year. Last year saw a great team effort of volunteers, residents and landowners all supporting a record number of shore nesting birds.

The spring migration means that birds that spend the autumn and winter on the Northumberland coast such as purple sandpiper and sanderling are leaving our shores soon to undertake an incredible migration to their arctic breeding grounds, but ringed plovers and terns are preparing to nest on our sandy beaches.

Ringed plover is the most widespread beach nesting bird on the Northumberland coast, where they lay their eggs directly onto sand and shingle.

Senior Wildlife Ranger Richard Willis said: “Our beaches are busier than ever so disturbance and trampling are serious threats to beach nesting birds.

"Ringed plover chicks are amazing, tiny little balls of fluff that find their own food from the moment they hatch, so as you can imagine this makes them vulnerable to predation and also trampling by people.

"The Space for Shorebirds team create small fenced refuges where they can safely nest and we ask everyone to help the chicks by giving these areas lots of space, especially if a dog is present.

"This is the fourth year we’ve undertaken this work and we’ve been blown away by the level of support from residents and visitors alike – people do understand about the fragility of a little nest on a beach and how vulnerable they are.”

Beach visitors should also be aware that some areas have special rules to protect the nesting birds, like the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England and the National Trust’s site on Beadnell Bay. Look out for the signage at those sites.

It will be a very challenging breeding season for beach nesting birds because of the exceptional storms and spring tides that have changed the beaches, losing height in key areas meaning space for nesting is more restricted than ever.

Sadly many nests failed to produce young last year because of losses from predation. To reduce losses this year the team will be using nest cages which allow parent birds to come and go, but stop predators like crows from reaching the eggs.

Ringed plover is a species in serious decline and are red listed as a species of conservation concern, and so it is especially important that they are protected.

The eagle eyes of local volunteers from the Northumberland Coast Conservation Team play a huge part in keeping our rangers up to date about where these beautiful little birds might be looking to nest, we would like to thank volunteers and local residents who are giving up their own time to help protect beach nesting birds.

Cllr Colin Horncastle, Cabinet Member for Looking After Our Environment, said: “Part of what makes the Northumberland coast so special is the wildlife, including birds like ringed plovers, so we are determined to help protect them for future generations. The level of public support for this work continues to be very encouraging."

If you would like to know more about the shorebird nesting season on the Northumberland coast please visit Space for Shorebirds or follow the team on social media at Facebook, Instagram or X

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