Posted on: 29 May 2014
A small influx of Black-winged Stilts has resulted in two – and possibly even three – pairs attempting to nest at RSPB reserves in West Sussex and Kent.
It is thought that a dry spell in southern Spain has displaced these wetland birds to southern Britain, and it seems likely that a changing climate may bring them to Britain more regularly in future. The charity has set up a 24-hour watch on the nests with the help of local volunteers, to protect them from egg collectors who target the nests of the rarest species in Britain.
A flock of 10 was seen in Kent and the Isle of Wight earlier this spring, and pairs were seen mating in Essex and Kent (see this month's Birdwatch, page 12). The only previous successful breeding records in Britain are from Norfolk in 1987 and Nottinghamshire in 1945.
One pair is nesting at Medmerry RSPB, West Sussex, while the other pair are at Cliffe Pools RSPB on the north Kent marshes, where another pair also appear to be making a nesting attempt. The stilts’ presence is a tribute to the conditions at both reserves – Medmerry is the largest open-coast managed realignment scheme in Europe and the RSPB’s newest reserve. It was created between 2011 and 2013 by the Environment Agency and consists of mudflats, tidal lagoons, saltmarsh, wildlife-friendly farmland and dragonfly-rich ditches.