Nesting season is underway for many coastal birds, and it won’t be long before they start laying their eggs. When we think of nests and eggs most of us imagine a bundle of sticks high up in a tree, but some birds take a different approach and lay their eggs on the ground.
The eggs and chicks are often very well camouflaged, making them difficult to see and avoid, but by being aware of where nests are likely to be and following the Bird Aware Coastal Code, everyone can play a part in protecting our precious ground nesting coastal birds.
Eggs in a clutch: 4
Weight: 11.5 grams
Size: 35×26 mm (similar to a Cadbury mini egg)
These small, rotund waders make their nests on bare gravel, shingle and sand, where the eggs and chicks are extremely well camouflaged. This keeps them safe from predators, but also makes them very vulnerable to trampling.
A great deal of work has gone into protecting ringed plovers locally: the Hayling Plover Project at Gunner Point has created a sanctuary for ringed plovers by fencing off the section of beach that the birds use as a nesting area. This helps to keep our ringed plovers safe from disturbance, so they have a better chance of hatching and rearing healthy chicks.
Ringed plovers are red listed in the UK, meaning they have suffered serious declines. With this in mind, it’s vital that visitors to the coast follow the Bird Aware Coastal Code to give these special birds the best possible chance of a successful breeding season.
Eggs in a clutch: 2-3
Weight: 46.5 grams (a little more than a Cadbury crème egg)
Size: 56×40 mm
In some areas of the country oystercatchers nest inland, but here on the Solent they tend to keep to the coast. Oystercatcher pairs often bond for life and generally return to same nesting place year after year, where both parents make a shallow scrape (a type of nest that’s a depression in the ground).
Mum and dad both bring food back to the chicks, who rely on their parents for much longer than most other wading birds.
Oystercatchers are amber listed in the UK, which means that numbers are dwindling, and conservationists are concerned for the future of the species. Visitors to the coast can support oystercatchers during the breeding season by giving them space, keeping dogs alongside and following requests on signs.
Eggs in a clutch: 4
Weight: 76 grams (a little heavier than a large chicken egg)
Size: 68×48 mm
Charismatic curlews are Europe’s largest wading bird, and some of them breed right here on the Solent, around the New Forest. They usually start nesting in late April, favouring rough grasslands, moorlands and bogs.
Chicks tend to stay close to the nest, where both parents will protect and feed them until they fledge at just over a month old.
Curlews are red listed in the UK, which means that they have suffered very worrying declines. Each chick that fledges makes a difference to their survival as a species, so let’s give them all the help we can by sticking to established footpaths and keeping dogs close, especially in areas where birds might be nesting.