Record breaking year for avocets - the iconic emblem of the RSPB
On the day of the RSPB’s Annual General Meeting it has been revealed that the avocet, a bird once close to extinction in the UK and the charity’s emblem, has enjoyed a record breaking year, with south west estuaries now home to an internationally important population in winter.
Avocets returned to Minsmere in Suffolk in 1947, after an absence of more than 100 years, and numbers have continued to grow across the UK. As the breeding population increased, both in the UK and Western Europe, south west estuaries, particularly the Tamar, Exe and Poole Harbour, increased in their importance as winter refuges for the birds.
Last year the Exe estuary had its highest number of avocets ever, with more than 700 birds present between October and March. Further to the east, Poole Harbour is now home to a flock of 2,000 avocets in the cold months, and increase from just 25 individuals 30 years ago. This represents 40% of the total; UK wintering population.
Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the South West said: “The avocet is a wonderful success story and proves that conservation efforts to save species, and safeguarding special places can really work. It’s a delight to watch these elegant wading birds, the RSPB’s iconic emblem on our estuaries in winter.”
Speaking of the avocet’s breeding successes Mike Clarke, RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “Where avocets lead, nature follows. The arrival of avocets on the Suffolk coast in 1947 heralded our continuing relationship with this special place. Minsmere is now a flagship RSPB reserve, beloved by the many visitors that are drawn to the wildlife spectacle. Since avocets colonised Minsmere, they’ve been crucial for the survival of many species, including bitterns and marsh harriers, and under our care is home to a wealth of wildlife.
“Avocets continue to take up residence around the country – often colonising places that we and others have created for them. They are a symbol of conservation success – and the reason they feature as the logo of the RSPB.”
Other notable successes in the south west this year have included; the return of storm petrels to the Isles of Scilly and Lundy, ongoing increases in bitterns on the RSPB’s Somerset reserves, now home to over a quarter of the UK population and the ongoing success of the reintroduction of cirl buntings to Cornwall, Europe’s only songbird reintroduction programme.
Mr Whitehead added: “The south west in winter is one of the best places to watch wildlife. If people haven’t yet seen avocet, or want really good views of the birds, the best way is to join one of our winter bird cruises. On these you can also enjoy lots of other winter visitors, from brent geese to godwits, wigeon and a multitude of other wintering birds.”
Details of all the RSPB’s winter cruises can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/events
As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.