Rare birds' nests lost in flood

Some of Britain's rarest birds have lost their nests to flooding in the Fens for the second year running.High water levels on the Ouse Washes have destroyed the eggs or chicks of hundreds of pairs of ground-nesting waders, including black-tailed godwits and snipe.

Some of Britain's rarest birds have lost their nests to flooding in the Fens for the second year running.

High water levels on the Ouse Washes have destroyed the eggs or chicks of hundreds of pairs of ground-nesting waders, including black-tailed godwits and snipe.

Redshank, lapwings and nearly 1,000 pairs of ducks of seven species have also had their young wiped out, as the RSPB said rain and rising river levels meant prospects were now "hopeless" for this year's breeding season.

It said with continual flooding making it impossible to manage the Ouse Washes, it was vital for new wet meadow habitat to be created in the Fens.


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Jon Reeves, the RSPB's Ouse Washes site manager, said: "The current state of the Ouse Washes is so frustrating for me and my team. As well as losing so many birds' nests yet again, with most of the washes under water since last May we cannot get out there to manage the reserve. No ditches have been dug out and the grass is in poor condition, urgently needing cattle to graze it.

"We have just 350 cattle here of the 2,000 we expected. These have been confined to the barrier banks and a few higher marshes and we've had to evacuate several hundred. Grazed wet meadows are vital for wildlife, but they also make the washes work as a flood storage area.

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"Right now, both are under threat. It's urgent to get the water off the Ouse Washes and give us a chance to get the place up and running again."

John Orr, environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: "Having cleared all of the water from the washes by the start of the breeding season, it is very disappointing that unseasonable heavy rain has brought flood-waters back. The flooding of the Ouse Washes in spring is never good for the many birds that nest there and we are doing all we can to remove the water from the area as quickly as we can so nesting birds may lay a second brood.

"Since the flooding last year, we have worked hard to try to reduce the impact of the flooding in the Ouse Washes, including engineering improvements to sluices at Denver. We continue to work with the RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to search for new land to create a safe habitat for ground-nesting birds, away from flooding."

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