- On 15th June 2016
- In Dredging, Ecology
- By William
As part of our ongoing project with the Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners (BHC), Exo Environmental spent the morning of 2nd June carrying out a bird monitoring survey of Brightlingsea Creek. Due to the quality and extent of the local saltmarsh and intertidal mudflat and the rich biodiversity these habitats support, the area is rightfully protected under both national and international legislation.
Birds are of high importance as qualifying features for many of these designations, in particular the Colne Estuary (Mid Essex Phase 2) Special Protected Area (SPA), which is exclusively designated for the of birds. The quality of this local environment is mirrored in the fact that between the SPA and the additional protection afforded by the Colne Estuary (Mid Essex Phase 2) Ramsar Site and Colne Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), no less than 19 bird species of conservation importance utilise this site, as well as important numbers of wildfowl assemblages throughout the winter season.
Accordingly, monitoring seasonal variation of local bird species and their respective populations is important prior to, during and following any works that may influence those birds present, dredging included. Our monitoring surveys, working in conjunction predominantly with our keen-eyed observer and local knowledgeable birder, Simon Cox, we hope to contribute to the existing database and knowledge of local species, whilst one of the ultimate aims of the project is to further enhance this outstanding area and thereby encourage further numbers of these species to frequent the site.
Being fieldwork, it was of course a windy day and a choppy estuary following what had also been a blustery week! Our first stop was Stone Point, a sand and shingle spit on the south bank of Brightlingsea Creek at the confluence with the River Colne, which extends north from St. Osyth. Although two breeding pairs of little terns (Sternula albifrons) were present and appeared to be having success feeding, the nests observed during the previous survey were unfortunately absent, most likely a result of the stormy weather the week before. However, nesting behaviour and preparation was evident and common behaviour for this species.
In contrast, the Cindery Islands (East and West) were full of activity. A number of breeding pairs of oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) and redshank (Tringa totanus) were observed on the periphery of the islands and making foraging runs throughout the estuary, whilst large numbers of herring and black headed gulls in the interior of the islands were making themselves known. Amongst the gulls, Simon also identified a single Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus), a nice addition to this year’s count.
So bar a few exceptions, the Brightlingsea birds appear to be well underway in their preparations for the upcoming breeding season. Hopefully our next outing will provide some direct evidence of this and the little terns have a successful second attempt!
Since this blog went live, we’ve continued to monitor the birds at Brightlingsea and started some exciting projects with RSPB too. Take a look at our blog post about planting nests for Little Terns.