Highlights of 2017: Black-winged Stilts

The Black-winged Stilt is a long-legged wading bird which normally breeds in the shallow lakes, marshes and ponds of the Mediterranean. It first bred in the UK in 1943, but it was not until 1987 that a pair bread again and there followed another gap until 2008 when a pair bread near Northwich.

In 2014 two pairs bred, one in Sussex and another in Kent. A pair has bred but failed to fledge its young in North Kent each year since. 2017 was to be a different story as four pairs at three sites (in Kent, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk) managed to fledge 13 young birds. We shall have to wait until next summer to see if this is a one-off exception or whether this is the beginning of a true and lasting expansion of the breeding population in this country, but it was a memorable highlight of the year.

I would have loved it if I had been able to get such good photos of the wild birds. Unfortunately, although I saw the North Kent birds on a couple of occasions they were always very distant. These pictures were of birds in the collection at Pensthorpe in Norfolk.

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