A team of coastal rangers has started work on the Solent coast to help protect the thousands of birds that spend the winter along our shores.

The Solent is internationally important for its over-wintering birds, with 90,000 waders and more than 10 per cent of the world’s Brent Geese. Many of these waders and wildfowl fly thousands of miles to spend the winter here. Dark-bellied Brent Geese for instance come all the way from northern Siberia. Whilst on the Solent, the birds must be able to feed undisturbed if they are to build up enough energy reserves to survive the winter here and complete their migratory journey back to their breeding grounds.

The Solent is also renowned for its coastal walks and other recreational opportunities. It attracts an estimated 52 million visits by people each year, and planned new housing is set to increase that figure to 60 million. People who are walking along the shore can, often unintentionally, disturb the birds. So local authorities and conservation bodies are working together – through the recently formed Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership – to prevent that disturbance.

Through funding from developers in association with planning permissions for new housing, the Partnership has established a team of rangers who will talk to visitors at the coast to help them understand how they can enjoy their walk without disturbing the birds. Each day the rangers will be at different sections of the Solent coast – between Hurst Castle near Lymington and West Wittering, including Chichester, Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours, and on the Isle of Wight coast between Colwell (near Freshwater) and  Bembridge.

Commenting on the start of the ranger patrols, Partnership Chairman Councillor Seán Woodward said “Our aim is to ensure that public access to the coast is maintained but is carefully managed to avoid disturbance to the birds which are such an important feature of our shores. The rangers will help achieve that aim, and at no cost to local taxpayers.”

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