Wading bird numbers decline

Oystercatcher
An oystercatcher - one of the at risk birds Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Four UK wading bird species saw numbers fall to new lows last year, as poor weather compounded long-term declines in populations, a survey has revealed.

Several key nesting sites across the UK have been hit by bad weather - including the RSPB's Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire.

The survey has revealed that Lapwings, oystercatchers, snipe and curlew are all at their lowest numbers since the British Breeding Bird Survey of more than 100 bird species started in the early 1990s.

All four species suffered sharp drops in numbers compared with spring 2010, with populations tumbling by 40% for snipe and by almost a fifth for oystercatchers (19%) and lapwings (18%). Curlew numbers declined by 13% between 2010 and 2011.

Experts believe the latest falls in numbers, recorded in spring 2011, are the result of unfavourable weather conditions in the previous year, which come on top of long-term declines in the species.

And conservationists warn there is likely to have been no respite for the birds this spring, as the ground-nesting species will have been hit by the wettest April to June on record.

Grahame Madge, of the RSPB, said: "The spring of 2012 has seen the wettest April to June on record, and it's likely that populations of these ground-nesting waders would have also been hit hard this year.

"Flooding at several key sites has seen hundreds of wader nests washed out, including 600 at the RSPB's Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire."