Record numbers of birds spotted at Cley Nature Reserve

Spoonbills seen previously at Cley Marshes.Picture by Roger Tidman.

Spoonbills seen previously at Cley Marshes.Picture by Roger Tidman. - Credit: Roger Tidman

A record number of spoonbill birds have been seen at a nature reserve on the north Norfolk coast.

The 30 spoonbills have been spotted at The National Wildlife Trust's centre at Cley Marshes over the past few days, something which they say is a new record high for the nature reserve.

The birds, which are long-legged wading birds and are Eurasian spoonbills, have originated from the breeding colony which has been established at the National Nature Reserve at Holkham since 2010. It was the first breeding colony to be established in the UK in 300 years and as a result at Holkham in 2011, eight breeding pairs nested, successfully fledging 14 young.

Bernard Bishop, warden at Cley Marshes, said the numbers had slowly started increasing over the past few days until reaching around 30. He urged people to take a trip to the visitor centre there and go and see them.

He said: 'It is a wonderful sight for people at the visitor centre to see the spoonbills flying about, it is also nice to see the young ones with them.'

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He added: 'It is really nice to see the birds especially following the tidal surge we had. We worried about what damage that may have done but it shows how nature can cope with disaster.'

Although the birds, which feeds on small animals and insects such as frogs, tadpoles and small fish and some aquatic plants, usually migrate to the tropics in the winter, Mr Bishop said the spoonbills should stay for the rest of the summer.

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Spoonbills are a group of large, long-legged wading birds.

They are characterised by having large flat spatulate bills and they feed by wading through shallow water sweeping the partly opened bill from side to side.

They generally prefer fresh water to salt but are found in both environments.

Most species nest in trees or reed beds, often with ibises or herons.

The breeding bird is all white except for its dark legs, black bill with a yellow tip, and a yellow breast patch like a pelican. It has a crest in the breeding season.

Non-breeders lack the crest and breast patch, and young birds have a pale bill and black tips to the primary flight feathers. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched.

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