Avocets arrive at Leighton Moss

Avocets in flock (Andy Hay rspb-images.com).
Avocets in flock (Andy Hay rspb-images.com).

With the weather becoming warmer and the nights lighter, spring is certainly in the air.

And at RSPB Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve in Silverdale, there is a very definite sign that winter is over, with the arrival of 43 avocets.

These delicate black and white wading birds arrive at Leighton Moss in March from their over wintering grounds in south west England and Spain.

They take up residence for the summer on the saltmarsh area of the reserve in order to have their young. Although these birds, which have a distinctive upturned beak, are now thriving in several areas of the country, this hasn’t always been the case.

Alasdair Grubb, assistant warden at RSPB Leighton Moss, said: “The avocet was extinct as a breeding bird in the UK by the 1840s, due to the drainage of wetlands for agriculture.

“However, flooding of the East Anglian coastal marshes for defences in the Second World War provided the perfect home for them and a tiny population took up residence.

“Early protection at the RSPB’s Minsmere and Havergate Island reserves in Suffolk meant that avocet numbers increased and they began to spread out.

“The birds have had an amazing comeback and the avocet is now thriving with around 1,500 pairs breeding around the country.”

Avocets have been breeding at Leighton Moss since 2001. The past two years have been particularly successful for them at the site, with a total of 79 young ones leaving the nest.

This year Leighton Moss is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the reserve is hoping it could be a record breaking year for the birds.

For the chance to see the iconic avocets, which are the emblem of the RSPB, pop along to the visitor centre at Leighton Moss between 9.30am and 5pm, where staff and volunteers will happily direct you to where the birds might be.

To find out more about the other wildlife you can see on the reserve, and the range of events being held throughout the site’s anniversary year, log onto rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss.