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Wildlife in the outher harbour

Chris Rose, Harbour Commissioner, August 2010

Visitors to the Outer Harbour have included more than boats from the wind farm and holidaymakers enjoying the swimming area. The Harbour team fenced off the top of the outer bank, in order to try and encourage nesting birds and colonization by wild plants. This will also help stabilise the bank and minimise the additional work needed to maintain it as a protection from easterly gales for the pontoons.

We were pleased to see that a pair of oystercatchers nested on the exposed shingle of the new bank and even more pleased that a pair of ringed plovers did so as well. These small brown and white waders have a distinctive black and white ring marking around the head and orange legs. In recent years they have much declined along British coastlines, including North Norfolk which is one of their nesting strongholds. This is thought to be at least in part due to disturbance by dogs and trampling by people walking over the shingle.

It was encouraging therefore that two well grown young ringed plovers could be seen running about on top of the bank in mid July, and they are thought to have fledged successfully. Natural England regards the ringed plover as 'threatened' as a breeding species and a detailed survey in 2002 found just 10 pairs on Stiffkey/Hall/Morston Meals and 15 on the Holkham National Nature Reserve.

Young plants are also rapidly colonising the bank, including sea rocket, samphire, spurrey, spear leaved orache, marram, cord grass and prickly saltwort. Both annual and perennial forms of Suaeda or 'sea blite' have also taken hold and if left untrampled, these will help create more cover for birds, stabilise the bank and give it a natural appearance. So please help by encouraging everyone to keep off the bank!

 

Ringed Plover. Pic: Gary K Smith
Sea Rocket on the bank
Marram
Prickly Saltwort