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A lifeline for lapwings at Middleton Lakes

4 November 2011

Fen Gerry
Media & Communications Officer

RSPB Middleton Lakes has recently received £406,000 from Viridor Credits Environmental Company through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The award was given to commemorate the environmental body’s 10 year anniversary.

Lapwings were once widespread and common across the West Midlands, with huge winter flocks seen across the landscape – sadly; they are now confined to just a few sites.

Middleton Lakes is one of the RSPB’s newest reserves. It is nestled in the Middle Tame Valley which cradles wetland habitats that are of great importance for both wildlife and people.

Historically, the site of the project would have been the floodplain of the River Tame and would have once flourished with wetland wildlife such as breeding snipe, redshank and lapwing.

Post war intensification of farming saw the drainage of large areas of grazing marsh. This reduction in habitat has resulted in the dramatic decline of lapwing and redshank and the loss of snipe as a breeding species in the Middle Tame Valley.

Thanks to the generous funding received, the project aims to restore and recreate suitable habitat to bring back wading birds to former strongholds, providing them with a chance to breed successfully and reverse the severe decline in their populations.

Birmingham resident, Jean said “I remember the local countryside used to have lots of pools and you would see flocks of lapwings. Now I get excited to see just one! They are a wonderful bird that I would like to see back in abundance here.”

The project is essential to the safe future of lapwings in the West Midlands – providing 20 hectares of floodplain grazing marsh habitat which will provide a lifeline for these enigmatic birds. Migrating birds also use the River Tame when they are moving from Eastern Britain, so the project will provide a safe haven before they continue their incredible journeys.

The first step of the project will involve re-profiling the land forms that currently characterise this area of the reserve which have remained following gravel extraction over the last 40 years. Re-profiling will allow the water from the adjacent River Tame to permeate the soils and grassland.

Ditches, scrapes and pools will be formed whilst the arising material will be pushed out into spits and islands in the adjacent lakes. The height of the dry grassland will be changed in order to increase water deluges and allow breeding wading birds to be closer to water for feeding and nesting.

Sluices will then be installed to protect nesting areas from unseasonal flooding. During floods, the breeding areas can be submersed with water, which floods out lapwing nests. If levels continue to rise in periods of extreme floods, a series of spillways will allow the river to once again fill the floodplain, protecting nearby housing.

Once the landscaping is complete, the new meadows will be seeded with a rich wildlife friendly grass and wild flower mix and will be grazed and sustainably managed by English Longhorn cattle and Konik ponies. A path will be created around the project site to enable people to see the amazing biodiversity benefits for themselves.

Reserve staff at RSPB Middleton Lakes have already received incredible community support for the project, Hurley village resident, Mary said: “Middleton Lakes nature reserve is really special.

“We’re guaranteed to see a wild variety of wildlife whenever we go there. With the future projects they have planned, it’s just going to get better.”

Thanks to funding, the project will encourage further community engagement, from visitors across the country to local residents, schools and volunteers. The project will create 60 voluntary opportunities and offer 216 days of volunteering for youth volunteers.


For further information please contact: Fen Gerry, RSPB Media & Community Officer: 07912 406125,

For excellent FREE photos of lapwings and RSPB Middleton Lakes please click on following link:

Username: lapwing

Password: RSPB

Editors notes:

Note 1

Viridor Credits actively seeks applications from groups, organisations and projects that would not necessarily obtain funding from other, often more complicated, grant schemes. Applications can be made for projects that fall into one of three categories, provided that the project is located within 10 miles of a Viridor landfill site. They are:

  • Provision or maintenance of public amenities in the vicinity of a landfill site
  • The conservation or promotion of biological diversity within the vicinity of a landfill site through
  • The provision, conservation, restoration or enhancement of a natural habitat, or
  • The maintenance or recovery of a species or its habitat on land or water
  • Maintenance, restoration or renovation of buildings of historical or architectural importance or those used for religious worship, provided they offer public access and are within the vicinity of a licensed landfill.

Note 2:

Lapwing – Family: Plovers and lapwings (Charadriidae)Also known as the peewit in imitation of its display calls, its proper name describes its wavering flight. Its black and white appearance and round-winged shape in flight make it distinctive, even without its splendid crest. This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines recently and is now an Red List species.

Where to see them: Lapwings are found on farmland throughout the UK particularly in lowland areas of northern England, the Borders and eastern Scotland. In the breeding season prefer spring sown cereals, root crops, permanent unimproved pasture, meadows and fallow fields. They can also be found on wetlands with short vegetation. In winter they flock on pasture and ploughed fields. The highest known winter concentrations of lapwings are found at the Somerset Levels, Humber and Ribble estuaries, Breydon Water/Berney Marshes, the Wash, and Morecambe Bay.

When to see them: All year round. Leaves upland areas after the breeding season and moves to lowland fields for the winter. Large numbers of N European birds arrive in autumn for the winter.

Note 3:

RSPB Middleton Lakes:

The 160 hectare site is a former Hanson Aggregates gravel quarry adjacent to Middleton Hall and between the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

About half the land has been acquired by the RSPB from Hanson, through a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the remainder has been provided as part of an earlier planning agreement between Staffordshire County Council and Hanson.

Hanson's quarrying ended during 2007 and the RSPB is working with the company to ensure that the final restoration benefits birds, wildlife and visitors. The area is already regionally important for overwintering wildfowl such as pochards, tufted ducks and smews.

For more information about RSPB Middleton Lakes please contact the team on 01827 259454,,

Fen Gerry Media & Commications Officer RSPB, Guildhall Buildings, Stephenson Street, Birmingham, B2 4BT Direct tel:  07912 406125 Email: Website: