Recent heavy rain and flooding have had a big impact on the breeding attempts of thousands of wading birds in England and Wales, says the RSPB.

The effect on snipe numbers at the Ouse Washes in East Anglia was ?catastrophic?, because rising flood waters drowned the nests of 37 per cent of the birds? lowland population. Redshank and blacktailed godwits were also affected.

Site manager Jon Reeves said: ?Following centuries of land drainage across the UK, the Ouse Washes is now the most important stronghold for these birds, after they have been largely forced out of other sites. We had all our eggs in one basket and we?ve lost them. It?s devastating to watch the nests succumb to the rising waters without being able to do anything to prevent it.?

Several of the RSPB?s other nature reserves also suffered severe flooding, including Minsmere on the Suffolk coast, where avocet and black-headed gull nests were washed away, and Rainham Marshes in Essex, where lapwings were affected.

But experts predicted that snipe and redshank at West Sedgemoor on the Somerset levels could have a bumper breeding season after heavy rain there left the ground in perfect condition for birds to get worms.

The rest of this article appears in the 16th May issue of Shooting Times.

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