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Solent gets set for winter shorebirds’ return

August 2022

As the summer holidays come to an end, the Solent coast is starting to welcome back thousands of birds who fly here for the winter.

Around 125,000 birds migrate here every autumn making the Solent a destination of worldwide importance for protected birds. This includes 10 percent of the global population of dark-bellied brent geese which travel to the Solent from Siberia in Russia.

Councillor Seán Woodward, Chairman of the Partnership for South Hampshire (PfSH), the body that oversees Bird Aware Solent, said, ‘These protected birds make extraordinary journeys to spend the winter on our coastlines every year. It’s important we continue to raise awareness of them so they can feed and rest here undisturbed’.

Black-tailed godwits are wading birds which are early-returners to our shores from their breeding sites in Iceland. Hundreds have already been spotted at Bembridge and Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and around Calshot and Hamble in Hampshire.

Bold little turnstones, a familiar sight on Solent’s shores, have just begun to fly in from their summer breeding grounds of Northern Greenland, Canada and Lapland. Large groups have been seen in the last few days at Hill Head and Lepe in Hampshire. These aptly-named birds are easy to recognise by their behaviour: turning over pebbles to find tasty crustaceans and molluscs to eat.

Other long-distance travellers to the Solent include tiny sanderlings, which weigh about the same as a tennis ball. Growing numbers will soon start arriving on Solent’s beaches, all the way from Greenland and Siberia.

Over 300,000 wigeon ducks migrate to UK every winter with hundreds choosing the nutrient rich mudflats of the Solent. They are expected to return from Iceland, Russia, Scandinavia and Ukraine within the next month or so.

When these long-distance travellers arrive in the Solent, local people help them thrive by giving them the space they need to recover after their perilous journeys.

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.

Sanderling on the beach at Hill Head