Avocets make a triumphant comeback

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

SABIC Avocet

Popular wading birds return to SABIC’s Saline Lagoon Island, much to the delight of ornithologists…

Following the destruction of their nesting ground in the winter of 2013, the avocets have returned to the Saline Lagoon Island, which owned by company SABIC UK Petrochemicals.

The avocets are iconic birds which are the emblem of the RSPB and, to the delight of ornithologists, because their nesting season in 2015 was extremely successful, it would appear that they will once again make the area their regular breeding ground.

The lagoon in question was created by the Industry and Nature Conservation Association (INCA), and is managed by SABIC on Teesside in order to maximise its potential for wildlife. The fact that the avocets nest in this area is a mark of the success of the various organisations involved, in enabling wildlife to thrive in the industrial landscape of the Tees.

SABIC Brinefields

The avocet is a wading bird, belonging to the Recurvirostridae (avocet and stilt) family. It is a migratory bird, breeding in Europe and parts of Asia, then migrating to Africa for the winter. They tend to breed in areas of shallow, brackish water with exposed mud, making the saline lagoon in the Tees estuary an ideal breeding place for them.

However, the damage to the sea wall and the resulting flooding in winter 2013 raised some concern over whether the avocets would return to nest in the area in 2014.

Considerable efforts were made to repair the damage to the area: the pipework which fed water to the lagoon was fixed, and some twenty-six tonnes of cockleshells were ordered from Cornwall and re-laid on the island by volunteers from the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. Unfortunately, whilst the avocets did return to the area in spring 2014, it was only in a small number, and they did not have a very successful breeding season, with only four chicks recorded that year.

In 2015, ornithologists eagerly looked to the skies, in hope that they would once again sight the avocets returning to their former breeding ground. Sure enough, the first four avocets were seen in February, and after that numbers increased almost daily. The gregarious birds once again made the island their preferred location to nest, chasing off perceived predators. The breeding season was quite successful, with over thirty chicks fledging, and the Tees Bird Ringing Group have rung many of the chicks so that they will be able to track their movements, in order to gain a better understanding of this iconic bird.

Geoff Barber, ecologist with INCA, commented: “It is very encouraging to see these birds maintaining their population in the Brinefields and Cavities area.

“There has been some concern that they would not return after the flood damage and disturbance, but the success of this season gives us high hopes that the avocets will continue to be an important feature of the birdlife of North Tees in future years.”

The site is also home to many other species of birds, including skylarks, shelducks, oyster catchers, terns and plovers; however, the avocets are of particular interested because they did not nest in this area for over 200 years, before their return in 2008, and because they were only recently considered an endangered species in the UK. Their return to the area definitely signifies the ability for industry and nature to co-exist in an area like North Tees.

Stewart Swales, Line Manager, Storage & Distrbution for SABIC, said: “There is quite a lot of enthusiasm for wildlife among the employees of SABIC on Teesside.

“It’s a privilege that the Avocet has chosen the Brinefields and Cavities as their home, long may they prosper for themselves and for future generations of Teessiders to enjoy.”


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