Winter can be a perilous time for shorebirds

Posted on 13th December 2022 | in Community , Space for Shorebirds

As 2022 draws to a close, we reflect on the success of the year on the Northumberland Coast. We have been overwhelmed by the support that residents and visitors have shown for us and the birds.

Turnstone on Warkworth beach

The Northumberland Coast is made up of a mosaic of habitats, such as rocky shore, muddy bays and sandy beaches. So it supports, nationally and internationally, important numbers of non-breeding shorebirds between September and May.

The mud flats of the Coquet Estuary are hugely productive and are a safe, sheltered location for birds. We often see over 320 Lapwing, 130 Curlew and 100 Dunlin feeding on the mud and roosting on the saltmarsh. These are significant numbers for those species.

Shorebirds using this stretch of coast benefit from having access to Coquet Island, an undisturbed offshore rocky island which the birds can retreat to for shelter. On the mainland, the areas of rocky shore along the coast between Birling Carrs and Hauxley are extremely valuable habitat for turnstones and purple sandpiper, which are well camouflaged against rock and seaweed. These birds rely on a thin stretch of the intertidal zone to find food. This means that their options are limited if they are disturbed and pushed away from these important areas of rock.

Winter can be a perilous time for shorebirds, and it takes a great effort to make it through the short, dark, cold days. Small acts such as looking out for areas of the coast being used by groups of birds and giving them space so they can conserve their energy make a huge difference to the birds. It gives them a fighting chance of making it through the winter.

If you would like to find out more about the incredible shorebirds on our coast, why not join us at one of our Shorebirds for Beginners events – all details and links to social media are on .

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