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Multiplying colony of unusual Eurasian spoonbill birds now thriving in Holkham

Spoonbills nesting at Holkham National Nature Reserve. Picture: Michael Rooney

Spoonbills nesting at Holkham National Nature Reserve. Picture: Michael Rooney

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It is an unusual bird with a distinctive spoon bill, but it had not found a home in Britain for hundreds of years.

Spoonbills in flight over the north Norfolk coast. Picture: DAVID THACKERSpoonbills in flight over the north Norfolk coast. Picture: DAVID THACKER

But now there is a thriving colony of Eurasian spoonbills at north Norfolk’s Holkham National Nature Reserve, the first which has been observed on these shores since the 1600s.

Andy Bloomfield, the reserve’s warden, will speak at a special international workshop for experts on the breed to be held in Tunisia later this month.

Mr Bloomfield said he was delighted at the opportunity to be part of the event.

He said: “Being invited to a gathering of international experts is an absolute honour and privilege for both myself and the estate in recognition of the work we have done and still currently doing and gives us an opportunity in giving the estate a more prominent name within international bird conservation circles.

An adult spoonbill feeding on sticklebacks in north Norfolk. Picture: ROGER TIDMANAn adult spoonbill feeding on sticklebacks in north Norfolk. Picture: ROGER TIDMAN

“The workshop will also allow us to share our experiences with an international audience who will be in a better position to offer advice on all manner of Spoonbill matters.”

Spoonbills started to prospect at the reserve from the late 1990s and, after several failed attempts at nesting, a colony of six pairs formed in 2010.

This was the first successful breeding colony in the UK since the 1600s, and through careful protection the population has since grown to 28 pairs in 2017 and 2018, and 244 youngsters have fledged in that time.

Mr Bloomfield said the colony at Holkham was currently the only one in the British Isles and one of the estate’s greatest conservation success stories.

These images were taken last year of a large party of spoonbills arriving at Hickling Broad to feed. The ten bird party consists of both juveniles and adults. Whether they have bred locally or are from the Holkham breeding colony is unknown. Picture: TREVOR TABERHAMThese images were taken last year of a large party of spoonbills arriving at Hickling Broad to feed. The ten bird party consists of both juveniles and adults. Whether they have bred locally or are from the Holkham breeding colony is unknown. Picture: TREVOR TABERHAM

He said: “I personally have been involved with the Spoonbills at Holkham since 2004, witnessing their failed attempts, the first ever nesting pair here and took the first ever photographs of British-born chicks and monitored their proceedings since.

“Part of my interest is behaviour and I am currently working on a paper on their ecology at Holkham.”

The birds fly to the reserve in March from Holland, France, Spain and Germany and migrate south to southern Europe and Africa with increasing numbers favouring southern England in more recent years.

The AEWA Eurasian Spoonbill International Expert Group workshop runs from November 14 to 18 and will take place on Djerba Island.

MORE: Breeding spoonbills return to Holkham nature reserve

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