At RSPB Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve in Silverdale, signs of spring are in the air with the return of the avocets. These iconic wading birds, with their upturned beaks and striking white and black plumage, signal that the short days and long dark nights of winter are finally drawing to a close.
Avocets, the much-loved emblem of the RSPB, return each year during March having spent their winter in the warmer climes of South West England and Spain. During the summer months they take advantage of the abundance of insects and shellfish found in the Morecambe Bay mud at the reserve. It is here that they raise their young each year. Avocet populations are doing extremely well in a number of areas across the country but that hasn't always been the case
Kevin Kelly, Visitor Operations Manager at RSPB Leighton Moss, said: "Historically wetlands have been drained for agricultural purposes, often providing fertile land. However, such drainage impacted on many wading birds including avocets, so much so that they became extinct as a breeding bird in the UK by the 1840s. During the Second World War however, the East Anglian coastal marshes were flooded as a form of defence. This provided the perfect home for avocets and a small population were able to take hold there.
"From this small hold and through early protection given to them at RSPB Minsmere, avocet numbers have continued to increase and they have spread their range across the UK. They have been breeding at Leighton Moss since 2001. We now have a healthy population of over 1,500 pairs of breeding avocets in the UK and, with continued protection of their all important habitats we are hoping they will continue to thrive across the country"
In celebration of the return of these angelic birds, visitors are invited to a series of informative guided walks during April. Join an Avocet Amble on Monday 10, 17 and 24 April, 10-11.30 am, to discover more about this iconic British bird and why Morecambe Bay is such a fantastic home for them and other wildlife. Booking and payment in advance are essential by phoning 01524 701601. Cost £7 (RSPB members £5.50). Meet at the Eric Morecambe and Allen hide car park (SD 475736).
To find out more about other wildlife spectacles on the reserve, and the range of events to get involved in, visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss