Kittiwakes' Suffolk future under threat

ONE of Suffolk's most important wildlife sites is set to be destroyed over the next few years . . . a victim of the closure of the county's oldest nuclear power station.

ONE of Suffolk's most important wildlife sites is set to be destroyed over the next few years . . . a victim of the closure of the county's oldest nuclear power station.

And it is likely to prove a problem for reliant kittiwake birds.

Just offshore from Sizewell A power station are two structures that look like mini oil rigs, marking the inflow and outflow pipes used to pump sea water into the station to cool the steam.

The outflow pipe, nearest the shore, pumps warmer water into the sea - water that attracts extra fish and other sea creatures.

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It is also a soup of mangled sea life that has been caught in the inflow pipe and caught by filters to prevent it getting into the power station.

All this has combined to attract thousands of seabirds to the outflow pipe - especially kittiwakes which have established a breeding colony of about 200 pairs of birds on the rig.

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They are not about at the moment as the birds spend the winter at sea but they are in for a shock when they return in the spring.

Ian Barthorpe from the RSPB said the rig was important for the birds.

He said: “There are two major kittiwake colonies between Yorkshire and Kent and both are on manmade structures on the Suffolk coast. The other colony is on a wall at Ness Point in Lowestoft.

“However, the fact is that once the outflow is no longer working the kittiwakes will naturally look for somewhere else to live. It has been an important colony, but they will adapt.”

His colleague, Robin Harvey, has been talking to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority about the future of the kittiwakes - known as the “Rolls Royce of gulls” because more they are much more dependent on the sea than their cousins.

He said there were three options being considered - building a new structure at sea, building a new structure on land, or putting up a new wall at Lowestoft Port.

As well as kittiwakes, the outflow has also attracted many other comparatively rare sea birds and is a popular location with birdwatchers.

It has often provided food for terns, arctic skuas on their migration flights, and many other birds use it as an avian pit stop during spring and autumn migrations.

The RSPB is also concerned for the future of the rare black redstart. There are two pairs who nest inside Sizewell A buildings and special nest boxes are being installed to ensure they still have a home once the site is decommissioned.


N Do you know of any rare birds that have found homes in manmade structures? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

Kittiwake: FastFacts:

N Kittiwakes got their name from their distinctive cry.

N During the winter they live almost completely at sea, returning to cliffs or man-made structures to breed in the spring.

N They eat fish, especially sand eels, and will take worms but are more reliant on the sea than other gulls.

N Kittiwakes can live to 28 years old.

N They are found on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Source: RSPB

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