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27 Jul 2020

New nesting rafts wing their way into Wirral Waters at Morpeth Dock

Peel L&P’s Wirral Waters is set to become a haven for birds thanks to the installation of a series of specialised nesting rafts that will provide shelter for local populations of terns and cormorants.

The waterbird nesting rafts sit within Morpeth Dock, near to a current tern nesting site at Buchannan’s Jetty on the East Float and a cormorant roost at the mouth of Vittoria Dock, providing the birds with easy access to feeding grounds on the Mersey Estuary.

The six waterbird rafts collectively provide enough space for at least 50 nesting tern pairs throughout the spring/summer and up to 80 roosting cormorants during the autumn/winter. Each raft is 18 square metres in size.

The story of how common terns came to nest in Birkenhead Docks is fascinating. The birds spend winter fishing in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. In the first week of May every year they return to Liverpool Bay and form nesting colonies at Shotton, Birkenhead, Seaforth and Preston Dock. Due to loss of natural shingle habitats, the birds have adapted to nesting on man-made structures next to water. They nest in colonies to provide strength in numbers as the young chicks are vulnerable to predation from gulls and rats in the three weeks between hatching and fledging.

As part of Peel L&P’s commitment to using local contractors and not-for-profit organisations, the nesting rafts have been manufactured by Green Future Building, a social enterprise. The nesting rafts have been installed by local contractor Total Industrial and Domestic Services, helping to support the local economy and employment.

The nesting rafts will occupy Morpeth Dock for a five-year period, with the islands subsequently being re-located to Gillbrook Basin on the West Float in 2025 as the Wirral Waters project continues to develop.

In addition to Peel L&P, the project has also been supported by The Environment Partnership (TEP) who managed the waterbird rafts project, the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service, and Natural England who both provided regulatory assistance and advice. The Canal and River Trust operate Morpeth Dock and have enabled the rafts to be anchored there for the crucial five-year period whilst development at Wirral Waters progresses.

Commenting on the initiative, Richard Mawdsley, Peel L&P’s Director of Development at Wirral Waters, said: “The Mersey Estuary, of which Wirral Waters forms the left bank, is home to a rich and diverse array of birdlife. As Wirral Waters has developed, we’ve ensured that environmental considerations have sat at the heart of our strategic approach in order to protect this valued birdlife and wider biodiversity. So, I’m pleased that we have been able to work with our partners to install these waterbird rafts which will provide shelter and nesting opportunities for important local bird populations.”