Waders put the boot in Southwold attraction by choosing island life

An oyster catcher is nesting on the island at the Southwold Boating Lake.
An oyster catcher is nesting on the island at the Southwold Boating Lake.

Friday, June 6, 2014
6:30 AM

They are a familiar sight on our coast, probing for food along the shoreline.

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TEMPORARY TENANTS: Penny Ball and her husband David have been forced to close off the island at Southwold Boating Lake after a pair of oystercatcher began nesting there. Inset/Above/Right, one of the birds keeps a watch on its nest.

pictures: NICK BUTCHERTEMPORARY TENANTS: Penny Ball and her husband David have been forced to close off the island at Southwold Boating Lake after a pair of oystercatcher began nesting there. Inset/Above/Right, one of the birds keeps a watch on its nest. pictures: NICK BUTCHER

But a pair of oystercatchers have left a Southwold tourist attraction in a bit of a flap – after choosing to nest on an island in the middle of its popular boating lake.

The Southwold Boating Lake and Tearoom has closed off its Cream Tea Island to visitors after the wading birds set up a nest on a patch of shingle.

The owners David and Penny Ball said they decided to stop customers going onto the island – which has benches and tables on it – so the two birds and their nest were not disturbed.

Ironically, the oystercatchers’ arrival has also affected plans by the the RSPB to set up a tent on the island on Sunday as part of the Touching the Tide family fun day.

Mr Ball said: “Once we found the oystercatchers, we had to close Cream Tea Island by locking its gate as we did not want anyone to disturb them, and we explain this to our customers.

“According to what I’ve read, the incubation period for their eggs about 25 days and, once they hatch, the chicks will not go too far from the nest.

“One of the oystercatchers is always on the look-out to make sure the nest is safe. They make an amazing noise when they spot a seagull coming near.

“The RSPB had been planning to use the island for a tent as part of the Touching the Tide event, but they can’t now as we have locked the island’s gate. They have found another location instead.”

Mr Ball joked that the BBC should move its Springwatch programme from its current location at the nearby RSPB Minsmere reserve to his island as it was popular with all sorts of wildlife, including geese and ducks.

Oystercatchers eat mussels and cockles and the ones on the boating lake are part of an estimated 110,000 breeding pairs in the UK.

The adults take turns to incubate two or three eggs, which are slightly smaller than a domestic hen’s and heavily speckled. When the chicks hatch, they are normally fed earthworms.

Mr and Mrs Ball, who have owned the boating lake for more than two years, created the new-look island setting by putting 30 tonnes of shingle on it. As well as benches and tables, it has “living fences” made out of willow, and willow models of bittern and avocet models.

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