At times the engineering work required to protect communities from coastal flooding and erosion can impact wildlife and cause unavoidable habitat loss. Comprehensive assessments are undertaken to minimise the impact of work including exploring habitat creation opportunities such as improving existing habitats or creating new habitats at alternative sites.
The planned work on the Southsea coastal defences increased the awareness of a small population of wading birds called Purple Sandpipers. Their only regular location in Hampshire is found beside the Southsea Castle, between December and April each year.
These small shorebirds are subject to two specific threats in this location: increasing sea levels and the imminent build of the new Southsea flood defences. A research project was undertaken to study the wintering population of the Purple Sandpiper to ensure their habitat was preserved as part of the Southsea flood defence scheme.
As a result of the research, enhancements to the Southsea scheme are being put in place, for the specific purpose of enhancing and protecting of the Purple Sandpiper population. Enhancements such as increasing the area of exposed rocks and creating an artificially textured surface, give the Purple Sandpipers not only more space to feed, but also ensure that the species they feed on have the optimal conditions for colonisation.
Construction around the Southsea castle will be scheduled to take in to account the impact on the overwintering birds. The structure will also be built in stages, ensuring enough time for the species that the birds feed on to colonise and provide enough food for the Purple Sandpipers over the winter months.
Purple Sandpiper, copyright Dave Stevenson
In 2019, Coastal Partners worked in conjunction with Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust on a joint initiative, funded by Hayling Beach Management Plan, to fence off a known nesting area for the Ringed Plover bird on Hayling Island.
The Ringed Plover is a declining bird breed that forages for food on beaches and nests around the coast on open ground with little or no plant growth. There are 6-8 Ringed Plover that attempt to nest at the site on Hayling Island but are rarely successful.
The purpose of installing a fence around the nesting site was to reduce human and dog disturbance for the Ringed Plover, other nesting birds and prevent trampling of their habitat vegetated shingle, also equally rare.
Monitoring visits have found the fenced off enclosure to be successful with sightings of Ringed Plovers flying over the site and juvenile Ringed Plovers just outside the fenced area, and a skylark and meadow pipit nest were also found within the enclosure.
Monitoring of the site will continue as Coastal Partners ensures the protection and preservation of this rare bird.