A new colony of rare spoonbills has been formed near the north Norfolk coast, following work to improve a farm's woodland habitats.

The birds have nested at Old Rectory Farm in Cley, with an estimated 10 new chicks fledging between May and July.

Landowner Alice Atkinson said spoonbills visiting the marshes of the neighbouring Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve had increasingly been spotted within woodland on the family farm.

But they only nested there after a tree-thinning project, funded by a government woodland management grant, to let more light into the lower canopy and encourage more wildlife.

"As farmers we are constantly looking for grants to enhance wildlife areas, but we are lucky to have such a thrilling and exotic bird make a home here," she said.

"They are nesting right at the top of very tall trees which were planted in 1951 by my grandfather.

"They have been showing interest for about three yeas and then suddenly after doing this woodland work, there was something about that they liked and they started bringing in nest material."

Mrs Atkinson is a landscaper and garden designer by trade, but also manages the 800-acre family farm, about a third of which is woodland, meadows and grassland, with the rest growing arable crops.

Spoonbills were widespread in the UK until the 1600s, when they were hunted to extinction and their former broadland and fenland habitats were drained.

It is believed the Cley spoonbills came along the coast from the thriving colony at Holkham, established in 2010 after the birds started returning from the continent in the 1990s.

Andy Bloomfield is the warden at the Holkham National Nature Reserve, and founder of the UK Spoonbill Working Group.

He said almost 500 birds fledged from Holkham in the last 12 years, and other colonies have also grown on RSPB reserves at Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire, and Havergate Island in Suffolk.

He said it was "fantastic" that the birds were now nesting on secluded private woodland at Cley too.

"We know that when our birds fledge they go along the coast to places like Cley - they start to spend more time there and, if the habitat is right, they would in time hopefully nest there," he said.

"We cannot definitely say they nested there because of the tree-thinning work, but it does seem more than coincidental.

"The more colonies we have in the UK can only benefit the species. Hopefully they will go from being quite a rare bird to a much more widespread one."