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Bird survey showcases Solent’s wealth of wildlife

30 November 2023

More than 100 different bird species were spotted along the Solent coastline in this year’s Great Coastal Birdwatch. This total includes 18 species that are red-listed for conservation concern and highlights the worldwide importance of the area for birds.

Councillor Seán Woodward, Chairman of the Partnership for South Hampshire, the body that oversees Bird Aware Solent, said: ‘This survey shows the variety of different birds that visit our shores every winter. Thanks to everyone who took part in this year’s study and to everyone who gives these birds the space they need to feed and rest without being disturbed.’

Little egrets were spotted by more than 75% of those participating in the survey – the highest proportion among any of the species seen. Dark-bellied brent geese outstripped other species in terms of total numbers counted with more than one and half thousand recorded by people who took part.

Half the birds topping the charts in the study are winter visitors to the local coastline from far flung northern destinations. These include brent geese from Siberia, dunlins from Scandinavia and Russia, wigeons from Iceland, Russia and Ukraine, and turnstones from Greenland, Lapland and Canada. These migratory birds arrive on our shores tired and hungry. They need to stock up on vital energy resources by feeding along the Solent’s coastal mudflats and saltmarshes.

The Great Coastal Birdwatch is an annual wildlife event headed-up by wildlife organisation Bird Aware Solent. It aims to raise the public’s awareness of birds that spend the winter on our coastline.

During the research project, which took place in October this year, members of the public reported on what birds they saw during a one hour birdwatch anywhere on the Solent coast. This year people saw 106 different species, an increase on last year’s total of 93.

Ospreys were among the red-listed species spotted in the study, along with dunlins, lapwings and curlews.

In terms of the highest numbers of birds seen, black-headed brent geese topped the list, followed by Canada geese, dunlins, black-headed gulls, oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits, wigeons, lapwing, ringed plovers, sanderlings, mallard ducks, herring gulls, turnstone, carrion crows, little egrets, teals, mute swans, redshanks, cormorants, and curlews.

Bird Aware Solent works on coastlines around the New Forest, Southampton Water, Portsmouth, Chichester and Langstone Harbours and the northern coast of the Isle of Wight. It is formed of a partnership of 19 different local authorities and wildlife organisations.