Landguard Nature Reserve
Ringed plover breed at Landguard and choose their nesting sites on the ground amongst the rare, vegetated shingle habitat. They are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and are a Red List species due to their declining population and are therefore a conservation priority.
Easy to identify, these small birds display grey-brown back and wings, white breast and belly, a distinctive black band/ring around their neck, brown head cap, white forehead, black mask-like markings around the eyes, an orange and black bill and orange legs.
Unlike tree nesting birds, ringed plover do not collect material to construct their nests in the branches of trees but, instead, scrape shallow depressions in the shingle and lay their eggs directly onto the ground. Their eggs are very small and perfectly blend into the shingle environment making them very difficult to see. Each year, volunteers erect temporary post and rope cordons to create a barrier around potential nest sites to help protect the birds and their delicate nests. This helps to reduce the possibility of nests being accidentally trampled and allows vegetation to recover in the absence of foot pressure.
The ringed plover is a wading bird that feeds on invertebrates, marine worms, crustaceans, and molluscs and needs to feed on the beach and strandlines outside of the temporary cordons all year round. Adult birds, nests and chicks are incredibly sensitive to recreational pressure such as disturbance from people, dogs, kites and drones. If disturbed, adults stop incubation, resulting in eggs getting cold, and may abandon their nests. Adults with chicks continuously alarm call to encourage the young to hide, which prevents them from feeding and may result in the loss of young. Alarm calling can also attract predators.
The cordons reduce the likelihood of disturbance and trampling around their nest sites. However, feeding birds can often be disturbed on the shore, which is one of the many reasons that we ask visitors to the site to keep their dogs on short-fixed leads across the entire southern section of the nature reserve, including the beach, green areas and shingle.
Ringed plover, an iconic species here at Landguard, are a familiar sight, very much loved by visitors and we hope that they continue to successfully breed here for many years to come.
Leonie Washington, Landguard Ranger