Conservationists claim that the breeding of rainbow-hued bee-eaters along the Norfolk coast this summer and the rare sighting of three black-winged stilt fledglings in Yorkshire are “unmissable signs” that the environment and climate emergency has reached Britain.
Following the discovery of seven European bee-eaters near Cromer by a local birder, birdwatchers are swarming to north-east Norfolk to view these colorful rarities from southern Europe and Africa.
There is hope that bee-eaters will successfully reproduce after several of them were seen digging nest tunnels in a tiny sand quarry close to the coastal village of Trimingham.
Bee-eaters didn’t breed in Britain from 1956 to 2001, but this is the sixth attempt to nest this century, with birds nesting in County Durham in 2002, Herefordshire in 2002, the Isle of Wight in 2014, Cumbria in 2015, and Nottinghamshire in 2017, after nests in a quarry failed due to inclement weather.
According to Mark Thomas of the RSPB, “These seven bee-eaters are unquestionably the most colorful and fascinating birds you can see in the UK right now.” “While this is an amazing sight, we must not lose sight of the fact that the landing of these birds on our shores is a result of climatic changes and the resulting stresses on species both locally and globally.
These exotic species, which have been pushed northward by climate change, are likely to establish themselves as regular summer visitors in the future after serving as an early and obvious indicator over the previous 20 years that the environment and climate emergency has reached our shores.
The starling-sized bee-eaters, which feed on bees, dragonflies, and other flying insects that they grab in midair, have red backs, blue bellies, and yellow throats.
Three black-winged stilts fledged this week from what is thought to be the most northern nest in Britain for a wading species at Potteric Carr nature reserve in Doncaster. Our species is uncommon in this country and does not breed here every year.
“It’s been an anxious wait, but we’re pleased,” Yorkshire Wildlife Trust operations manager Andy Dalton said. The conservation work we conduct at Potteric Carr, a green oasis on the outskirts of Doncaster surrounded by busy roads and industrial development, has a tremendous influence on wildlife, particularly rare species like black-winged stilts.
In order to allow species driven north by climate change to find sanctuary in Britain, Danny Heptinstall, director of policy and partnerships at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, issued a warning that nature-rich areas must be conserved and restored on a wide enough scale.
The fact that Potteric Carr has a beautiful, several hundred hectare-sized nature reserve with plans to expand it further is the only reason black-winged stilts are reproducing there. These species won’t have anywhere to go if we don’t provide the habitat for them in the UK, according to Heptinstall.
Although it’s encouraging, thrilling, and a fantastic validation of the work we’ve been doing at Potteric Carr, it also serves as a warning. What we simultaneously lose is the flip-side. We are nervously watching the populations of kittiwakes, fulmars, and puffins in Yorkshire.
24 of the 25 seabird species that breed in the UK have been given the red or amber rating on the list of birds that are threatened with extinction locally. Seabirds’ ability to breed farther south is hampered by warming sea temperatures, which forces species to move closer to where they can find food. Fish stocks also move north or disappear when sea temperatures rise.
* On order to watch the bee-eaters without disturbing their nesting attempts, the RSPB and the North-East Norfolk Bird Club have built up a parking park and viewing area in a big grass field off Gimingham Road near Trimingham.
Lead Image: Having previously been rare visitors, this is now the European bee-eater’s sixth UK breeding attempt in the past 20 years. Photograph: Mike Edgecombe/RSPB.
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