Four Avocets have returned to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s reserve at Martin Mere in the past few days, at least three weeks earlier that usual, making this the earliest record in Lancashire of a returning group of summer wading birds for breeding.
This is also yet another clear indicator that climate change is affecting the migration patterns of birds.
WWT Martin Mere Reserve Manager, Chris Tomlinson, said: “It is great to see the Avocets back this early. Working at Martin Mere we do notice the changes in migration patterns and it is more common now for birds to arrive earlier as we see changes in weather conditions. We are very hopeful of a successful breeding season for the summer wading birds and we will potentially have another record year for Avocet breeding”.
Avocets can usually be expected to return to WWT Martin Mere from the end of February, early March but these birds have travelled from the South almost a month earlier than usual. Avocets first bred at Martin Mere in 2001 once the new land had been completed on the reserve. In the first year only three pairs bred but numbers have gradually increased to seventeen pairs in 2007 which was a record for the Centre. Work will soon begin on the Mere to create more nesting habitat for the Avocets.
Avocets also breed every year at WWT Welney in Norfolk and can be seen on the reserve between March and August. The first breeding pair was recorded in 1996 and numbers rose steadily with 25 pairs incubating in 2007. A pair of Avocets have also visited and successfully bred at WWT Washington in Tyne and Wear for the past two years, making it the most northerly record of breeding Avocets in the UK.
Last year WWT launched a waders campaign because populations of breeding waders have fallen dramatically in recent years as wet grasslands are lost to agricultural drainage. British wading birds need wet grassland to live and breed, yet it is one of the fastest disappearing habitats in the UK. A high proportion of breeding waders are therefore concentrated in just a few sites, so it is vital that these areas are protected and maintained.