Oystercatchers take advantage of lockdown for rare nesting

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oystercatchers stanpit marsh
Oystercatchers have been disturbed by watercraft at Stanpit Marsh

LOCKDOWN has led to two pairs of oystercatchers nesting successfully in Stanpit Marsh for the first time in 50 years.

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The lack of watercraft near the site at Mudeford, due to the coronavirus restrictions, has meant the birds could breed without being disturbed.

One nest currently contains three eggs, which the female bird is incubating, while a second oystercatcher is yet to lay hers.

The birds are thought to have stopped breeding at Mudeford because the noise of the high volume of boats and other watercraft disturbed them.

In the current quieter conditions, the oystercatchers have successfully nested in the south marsh. Bird watchers are now waiting excitedly for chicks to hatch.

Dave Taylor, from Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG), said: “Normally there would be lots of canoes, kayaks and paddle boarders in that area but until recently, when the restrictions were lifted, there have been virtually nil.

“The birds have nested because they have not been disturbed. I spotted the first egg in one nest last Thursday and then by the weekend there were three.

“There is another nest in the same area. We are very hopeful there will be chicks soon.”

Mr Taylor praised BCP Council for quickly taking measures to protect the nests saying: “They acted very quickly, putting up fences and boards alerting people to the fact the nests are there.

“We need to get the message out that the nests are there so that watercraft users do not land anywhere near them and that dog owners are careful too when walking in the area.

“We are really excited about the nests and after last year’s tragedy it would be wonderful if the chicks survive this time.”

Last year another pair of Oystercatchers nested near to the beach huts on Mudeford Spit and two chicks were hatched.

But tragically one chick was carried off by a gull, while the other one only survived a few days after a dog killed it.

Oystercatchers are black and white wading birds with a bright orange beak and reddish pink legs. They have a loud peeping call. There are around 110,000 breeding pairs in the UK.

CHOG are warning people not to go near this year’s nest and are urging anyone who sees someone straying too close to warn them.

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