An area of coastline which provides a home to over a quarter of a million migrating birds every Winter has been extended.
One of the UK’s most important sites for water birds now includes RSPB Marshside and RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh.
They have been described as “the very jewels in the crown of our wonderful natural environment”.
In total, the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Lancashire has been extended by nearly a fifth, ensuring a more secure future for wildlife which visits the area each year.
The NNR is one of Britain’s most important sites for water birds, with many rare and threatened species breeding or wintering there each year.
Over a quarter of a million migrating water birds gather on the marshes each winter, including the iconic sight and sound of tens of thousands of pink-footed geese that migrate to the estuary from Greenland and Iceland during the autumn.
The Ribble Estuary is also an important site for declining birds including lapwings, ringed plovers, sanderling, and redshanks, as well as being one of the UK’s strongholds for water voles.
Accessible off Southport’s Marine Drive, RSPB Marshside attracts nature lovers all year round, with nesting birds like avocets and lapwings on show in the summer and the skies filled with pink-footed geese and wigeons in the winter.
RSPB Hesketh out Marsh, in Hesketh Bank, Lancashire, is a rare saltmarsh which was restored over a 10 year period after being used for agriculture in the 1980s.
The NNR is the third largest nature reserve in the country and the additional areas of internationally important saltmarsh and newly created wetland habitats take its total size to 5,231 hectares
The declaration is a result of a partnership of many landowners and stakeholders across the estuary – including Natural England, The RSPB, and the Lytham and District Wildfowlers Association (LDWA) – who have collaborated to secure greater protection and management for the Ribble Estuary’s rich habitats.
Announcing the new extension, Natural England Chair Tony Juniper, said: “The National Nature Reserves are the very jewels in the crown of our wonderful natural environment and Natural England is very proud to declare this very significant extension to what is already one of our largest of such reserves.
“The Ribble Estuary is one of the UK’s most important areas for water birds and this extension will mean that the habitat here will be bigger, better, and more joined-up, making for a more secure future for the iconic wildlife that relies on this internationally-important place, including the quarter of a million migrating water birds who visit and feed here.
“For far too long the natural world upon which we all depend has been in decline, and today marks another important step toward the establishment for England’s Nature Recovery Network, enabling the restoration of Nature at scale across the length and breadth of the country, in the process bringing a wide range of practical benefits, including for everyone to enjoy.
Jim Wardill, RSPB Operations Director for Northern England, added: “The fantastic news of a bigger, better and more joined up National Nature Reserve, is real testament to both the national importance of the estuary’s birdlife, and the power of collaborations.
“We’re excited about what this large scale nature reserve means for both the wildlife that can thrive there, and the local communities who will be able connect to nature and learn about the importance of conservation through the RSPB’s newly refurbished Ribble Discovery Centre from next spring.”