Posted 14th Jun 2017
An epitome of elegance, the avocet was once a great rarity but can now be seen at a number of coastal marshes
With a neat black cap, avocets are a regular sight in shallow coastal lagoons, estuaries, and are increasingly seen at inland wetlands. Wading in the water, they peacefully sweep their characteristic up-curved beaks back and forth as they attempt to catch the small invertebrates that makes up their diet.
However, their appearance is deceptive - they are actually pugilistic bullies. Once nesting season has commenced, it will not take much for one to see red - for instance a passing crow will be mobbed by shrieking adults, and gangs of them will dive bomb potential predators until they retreat. Other waders will also be given shorter shrift. No redshank or oystercatcher will stand a chance against the nesting avocet. Similarly, passing families of shelduck will be driven off whether they are adult or duckling.
An uncommon bird, the avocet was declared extinct in Britain in the 19th century. A century later, parts of the east coast were flooded to act as a military defence during the Second World War. Avocets soon swooped in to take advantage of these new wetlands to nest in. Since then, conservation bodies such as The Wildlife Trusts have worked tirelessly to make sure the wader is now firmly established on our coasts and wetlands.
The best time of year to view them will be the start of June, giving you the opportunity to see the newly hatched chicks.
Special spots where you can hope to see them are:
Cambridgeshire, Grafham Water
Essex, Blue House Farm (where birds usually nest in front of one of the hides)
Lincolnshire, Far Ings
Lincolnshire, Gibraltar Point
Norfolk, Cley Marshes
Norfolk, Hickling Broad
Rutland, Rutland Water, Egleton Reserve
Norfolk, Holme Dunes
Suffolk, Dingle Marshes
Sussex, Rye Harbour
Yorkshire, Kilnsea Wetlands
Yorkshire, North Cave Wetlands
Lead image © Neil Aldridge - information for the article provided by The Wildlife Trusts