Rare wading bird’s breeding success at Welney’s Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site

Black-tailed godwits raise chicks on Fenland reserve

A dry spring may have been bad news for the region's farmers - but it was heaven-sent for rare wading birds whose nests are prone to flooding.

A pair of black-tailed godwits has successfully reared a brood of three chicks on recently created habitat at a reserve on The Fens and it is the first time a successful brood has been raised on the site for a number of years.

The Ouse Washes did not flood at all earlier in the year which has helped the birds successfully rear young.

A recently created wetland area, Lady Fen, has been managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) at Welney and along with a perfect environment, the exclusion of predators has also helped the birds thrive.

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Leigh Marshall, WWT reserve manager said: 'It's great to see these birds using the wetlands that we have created. Black-tailed godwits are a site-specific nesting bird, so if their nesting habitat is flooded they will try to find other suitable areas as close as possible to the original site. The fact that they have chosen to nest on this recently created wetlands site when the Ouse washes are flood-free is testament to the hard work that has been undertaken throughout this project.'

What makes the breeding pair significant is the fact that the land on which they nested was, until recently, no different to surrounding farmland.

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A joint venture by the WWT and the Environment Agency, which was also supported by Natural England and Norfolk County Council, was set in motion in 2008 to create additional wetland habitat in the area.

Lady Fen's 197 acres (80 hectares) was converted into wet grasslands to benefit wintering and breeding birds and also provides summer grazing for the cattle of local farmers.

Geoff Brighty, central area manager for the Environment Agency said: 'The Lady Fen site is part of our on-going commitment to ensure that the Ouse Washes can fulfill it's vital role in managing flood risk in the wider Fens as well as being a site of international importance for wildlife. We are delighted that working with WWT the new habitat is proving to be of value to wildlife so soon and the presence of black-tailed godwit is a fantastic endorsement of this'.

The charismatic birds are relatively large waders with long legs and an unmistakably long, straight bill which is perfectly adapted for feeding on invertebrates in the mud. The birds migrate from Africa in spring and the males take on a rusty-orange hue to the plumage on their head and neck ready for the breeding season.

The successful breeding at Welney is the first time the birds have successfully raised young outside the Ouse Washes for many years.

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