Avocets, the black and white, long-legged birds with uniquely upturned beaks - and emblem of the RSPB - have just hatched chicks at RSPB Saltholme.
Staff at RSPB Saltholme, the wildlife reserve and discovery park near Stockton, have been working hard to create the perfect home for avocets, and this year, efforts have paid off.
Dave Braithwaite, Saltholme Site Manager said "This is fabulous news. We used fencing to protect the area we created for the avocets and other ground nesting birds, which has made all the difference. It is brilliant that avocets, the emblem of our organisation, are having success at our fabulous reserve."
The birds have nested at Saltholme within an area of flooded grassland inside a `fox-proof` fence, which was funded by Teesside Environmental Trust and Impetus Environmental Trust, and hopes are high the chicks will survive and fledge. Currently three clutches have hatched with a further seven nests expected any day soon.
Dave added: "Avocets are one of the most charismatic birds you can find anywhere in the world and to have them here on view for visitors to enjoy is really special. The news of the hatching raised a big cheer this morning."
Avocets have long been the subject of intense conservation efforts and these birds, once restricted to a small island off the Suffolk coast, have been spreading northwards and colonising new habitats specially created for them and other associated species, such as lapwings.
In 1884 avocets were declared extinct as breeding birds in the UK. They returned to the Suffolk coast in 1947 and were the subject of intensive conservation efforts. Largely due to conservation measures established by the RSPB, numbers are now at an all time high with around 1000 pairs UK-wide.
The birds first returned to the Tees Estuary in 2008 when they successfully bred. Moving to the Saltholme reserve, where they will be subject to high levels of protection, bodes well for their sustainable future.