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Suffolk symbol is making a comeback

PUBLISHED: 14:30 01 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 March 2010

RECORD numbers of avocets - one of the best-known symbols of Suffolk - are breeding at one of the county's most important nature reserves.

When the eggs hatch, staff at Trimley Marshes say there could be more than 200 of the distinctive black and white waders at the reserve on the banks of the Orwell this summer.

RECORD numbers of avocets – one of the best-known symbols of Suffolk – are breeding at one of the county's most important nature reserves.

When the eggs hatch, staff at Trimley Marshes say there could be more than 200 of the distinctive black and white waders at the reserve on the banks of the Orwell this summer.

Some 30 pairs are breeding, along with large numbers of redshank and lapwing.

It is a real feather in the cap for the 200-acre wetland reserve, which little more than a decade ago was arable farmland sloping gently down to the river.

An enormous amount of work since has seen the land transformed into a haven for more than 200 species of birds, providing a variety of wet habitat for breeding and overwintering.

It has now been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and given international recognition as part of the Stour and Orwell Special Protection Area.

It is visited by up to 10,000 people a year – despite being more than a two mile walk from the nearest parking – and this week for the first time visitors have been given full access to the reserve.

The opening of a new £30,000 project to provide a workshop and an insulated 20-seater bird hide over-looking the 20-acre reservoir – as reported in later editions of last night's Evening Star – has opened up the focal point of the reserve.

The new hide, built by Stan Smith and Sons, has been dedicated to the memory of Philip Woodgate, one of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust volunteers who worked as part of the team to set up the reserve in 1990.

"The reservoir is the main area and in winter there can be thousands of birds on the water here and it is a fantastic sight," said field officer and reserve warden Mick Wright.

"Because we have a perimeter dyke running all the way around this area we have previously not been able to allow the public close to the reservoir. But the project to create the new hide has included a bridge across the dyke and so we are now able to offer full access for the first time."

The reservoir is a hive of activity at this time of year for coot, tufted duck, teal, pochard, cormorant, gadwall and shoveler. Black terns are expected any day – the reserve is on their flight-path and they stop off for refuelling.

The ornithologists are convinced the new hide will add to the species seen at the reserve.

"We will probably find more birds we didn't know were visiting because now we will have perfect facilities in which to study them undisturbed," said Mr Wright.

The reserve was created to mitigate for the loss of mudflats destroyed when the Port of Felixstowe's Trinity Terminal was built. The port's northern quays come within yards of the reserve, separated by an enormous landscaped earth embankment, the trees of which are now providing habitat for woodland birds.

Mr Wright always has one eye on the port's development, but says the trust is fully involved in all the talks.

"Business has to look at the environment today and we are fully involved from the start in everything that happens. I don't see any problem with ports expanding as long as the wildlife is safeguarded and everything possible is done, though a national strategy for development would help," he said.

"We lost mudflats and the reserve was established to mitigate for that. We now have a fantastic and successful habitat here."

The reserve includes open water, mudflats, reed beds and grazing marsh, with hides overlooking all the different habitat.

Water levels are controlled by a system of sluices which allows wet conditions to be maintained for wintering wildfowl including wigeon and brent geese and later for breeding waders such as the redshank, avocet, oyster-catcher and black-tailed godwit. A shingle beach is currently being created for little terns to nest.

n The reserve's open day is from 10am on Sunday May 25 when a minibus will be provided to take people from Searson's Farm, Cordy's Lane, Trimley St Mary, to the site. The visitor centre will be open and refreshments available.

WEBLINK: www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/suffolk

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