Solent's breeding birds to be given helping hand


Breeding waders and terns in the Solent are to be given a boost thanks to a new habitat creation project.

The two-year Gravelly Shores scheme, led by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, aims to safeguard nesting waders while encouraging terns to return to former breeding haunts by creating new protected coastal vegetated shingle habitat at the Beaulieu Estate in the New Forest. 

The estate is already home to approximately half of the Solent region's breeding population of Ringed Plover and is an important site for breeding Eurasian Oystercatcher. It is hoped that the new shingle habitat, covering an area of some 1.7 ha, will also encourage Common, Little and – ambitiously – Roseate Terns to nest. Currently, no tern species breed at the estate.

Breeding waders such as Eurasian Oystercatcher are set to benefit from the Gravelly Shores project (Mike Trew).

Within the Solent region, increased human pressure and disturbance has reduced the amount of suitable shingle nesting habitat for shorebirds, and where it occurs it is affected by coastal erosion and sea-level rise. The new shingle area will be created above the high-water mark on a site with restricted access, and nesting birds will be protected by an electric fence to help deter predators. 


Rare breeding shorebirds

The project team will also trial other non-lethal predation management techniques across the North Solent National Nature Reserve to reduce losses of wader nests and chicks to predators. 

Mike Short of GWCT said: "While it is right that habitat loss and disturbance can put immense pressure on nesting birds, so can high levels of predation. Using nest cameras, we have previously documented very high losses of Ringed Plover and oystercatcher clutches to foxes, crows and gulls. 

"Aside from creating new nesting habitat that's resilient to climate change and coastal erosion, this exciting project will enable us to evaluate nest protection cages and other management tools to aid breeding wader recovery across the reserve and wider Solent region."

The study team will assess how effective the combined habitat and predation management measures are in helping local coastal bird populations to recover.