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Cherish our birds and insects on World Migratory Bird Day

1:52 pm, Friday, 10th May 2024 - 6 days ago


Thousands of wetland birds are stopping off along our coastline at this time of year as they make the exhausting journey north to their Arctic breeding grounds.

Ringed Plovers, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Grey Plovers and Redshank are just a few of the birds who depend on the Humber Estuary to refuel on their way north from southern wintering grounds (including Africa). They need to be undisturbed while feeding and roosting so that they can make the last leg of their journeys.

Saturday May 11 is World Migratory Bird Day when we celebrate these birds and remind people to take extra special care in not disturbing them.

Every autumn, 90-million birds fly along the East Atlantic Flyway, a super-highway that follows the coastlines from the Arctic, through Europe and into Africa, and they fly back again at this time of year.

The rich feeding grounds found in Cleethorpes and the Humber Estuary act like a motorway service station by providing a rest stop for these migrating birds. Some pass through on their way to other places whereas others have been here all winter. There are very few places where people can see these birds so closely as in Cleethorpes.

All of these birds rely on our rich sources of insects to refuel, and our Cleethorpes coastline and right along the National Nature Reserve to Tetney Marshes is abundant with them.

This year’s Migratory Bird Day focuses on insects and the important role they play in feeding these birds.

The timing of bird migration often coincides with peak insect abundance at stopover locations. The loss and disturbance of insect populations at breeding sites and along avian migration routes, threatens bird survival and well-being.

Birds play crucial roles in pollination and pest control, and a lack of insects disrupts these ecosystem functions. Overpopulation of certain insects, without natural predators from birds, can also cause outbreaks that damage plant health and agriculture.

You can look out for a variety of insects and birds along the Humber Estuary at this time of year, including Sand Hoppers, which are crustaceans, like crabs and woodlice, and are called amphipods because they have two different types of legs. They are found on our sandy beach where they live in burrows up to 30cm deep, emerging at night to feed.

Seaweed Flies are one of the most noticeable animals on the sand line as on warm days they will emerge from the seaweed in swarms, which beach goers can find annoying. Seaweed Flies pose no threat to us though and, as the name suggests, they are found nowhere else, so they are a key part of the beach ecosystem and global ecosystem for migratory birds.

Ground Beetles predate on sand hoppers. These large black beetles are found on  the beach, backed by sand dunes, and live beneath large pieces of driftwood and litter. When found, they may remain motionless. They are most active at night when they can be seen in the open.

Swifts, Swallows and Martins (House and Sand) are summer visitors who come here to breed before also flying back to Africa for winter. They can often be seen congregating on the coast feeding on Seaweed Flies, swooping low over the strandline, and building themselves up for the long winter migration.

The first Wheatears of the season were spotted at Novartis Ings this year, and can often be seen along the sea wall. They arrive from March to breed in the UK and then fly all the way back to Africa to overwinter. Frequently seen on beaches, they stop off to feed on insects and crustaceans.

Enjoy our birds this weekend but please help them to get the rest they need by following these simple steps:

  • Keep to the designated footpaths
  • Keep dogs under control
  • Anyone using the coastline for water sports must stay away from the salt marsh and sand banks.

Preventing SPA birds from feeding or roosting and causing them to take flight is a criminal offence and offenders can be prosecuted under the EU Birds Directive.

Find out more about the role Cleethorpes plays in the East Atlantic Flyway by watching the Humber Nature Partnership’s Wild Humber video at

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