COLUMN: An elegant wader

An avocet attacking an egret. Picture: Neil Smith
An avocet attacking an egret. Picture: Neil Smith

Hello there! This is Chris from the RSPB nature reserve at Frampton Marsh, here again with a look at the best of this season’s local wildlife.

This month I wanted to talk about the bird that is the emblem of the RSPB, the avocet.

Now there was a time when you would not have seen avocets in Lincolnshire. Or indeed over the UK as a whole. The loss of the wetland areas where they live to live had driven them to extinction as a breeding bird in this country.

Oddly enough, it was World War II which provided the solution. Low lying ground in Suffolk was deliberately flooded to stop German paratroops from landing. What did fly in instead though were avocets, who loved it. Upon the end of the war their presence was noted and the RSPB bought up two areas of land, one of which is now Minsmere, our flagship reserve and star of Springwatch.

The same pattern was then followed elsewhere as new nature reserves were set up, and avocets have been spreading once more across the country. They arrived in this area when the RSPB’s Freiston Shore reserve was started, the first time they had been nesting in South Lincolnshire for over 100 years!

These days if you want to find avocets in Lincolnshire, the best place to go is the RSPB nature reserve of Frampton Marsh. From no birds there 10 years ago, through the hard work of the team, there are now almost 100 pairs of birds, nesting and raising their chicks. And very elegant they look too, delicately wading through the water, swiping their unusual long, upcurved bill from side to side to catch midge larvae, shrimps and other small creatures. The chicks are little grey balls of fluff, with surprisingly blue legs.

They skitter along, with proud parents in constant attendance. Just in case they need to defend their offspring from gulls or other predators.

As time goes on the chicks grow bigger and can look after themselves more. But to see them in their cute phase, June is the ideal time to visit. Then you can see the next generation of Lincolnshire avocets, securing the future for these graceful birds in the county.