The regionally rare avocet has made its earliest ever return to one North East wetland reserve.
An unringed female adult was spotted on Wader Lake at WWT Washington Wetland Centre yesterday morning (21 February 2017) – two days earlier than the site's previous record of 23 February set in 2014.
Reserve warden David Dinsley said: "It's always very exciting to see the first avocets return each season and we're thrilled that a new record has been set this year.
"We now expect numbers to start gradually building as more birds move further north during this mild weather and we've already begun reducing the water levels on Wader Lake in anticipation of their arrival.
"This creates more habitat and also exposes the invertebrate-rich mud on which avocets feed; picking prey from the surface or foraging by sweeping their long, up-curved bill from side to side through the sediment."
Avocets began breeding at WWT Washington in 2006 and since then numbers have steadily increased; hitting an all-time high of 42 on site in June 2016.
The iconic black and white waders typically nest on the fingers of Wader Lake as well as on its shingle islands, which were enhanced and doubled in size in 2015 thanks to a £21.4K funding boost from Biffa Award.
David added: "Avocets are a real conservation success story for WWT Washington and their thriving presence here is a great example of local conservation work in action.
"Visitors should soon be able to watch from the hides as these charismatic birds begin prospecting for nest sites, fighting over territory and settling down to breed, with chicks hatching in early summer."
Avocet facts…did you know?
- Between 2006 and 2016 avocets have successfully hatched and fledged 85 chicks at WWT Washington.
- On 27 July 2010 a pair of avocet colour-ringed at WWT Washington that June were sighted and reported at Cley NWT reserve in Norfolk (270km away and 38 days post-ringing).
- 07 October 2010 a single bird with colour rings (later identified as ring number ET65453) was sighted at Salinas la Tapa, El Puerto Real, Cadiz, SPAIN. The bird had travelled an amazing 2077km in the 110 days after ringing.
Whatever the season, come rain or shine, WWT Washington Wetland Centre is the perfect place for you to connect with nature.
Open 364 days a year, our award-winning, family-friendly site offers an easy, safe space to enjoy the wonders of wetland wildlife, with a host of unforgettable wildlife encounters, regular activities and beautiful scenery all year round.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a charity that saves wetlands, which are essential for life itself. Every day we're at the heart of issues like well-being, nature, climate change and education.
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