Owner of Wirral Waters Peel L&P has installed a a series of specialised nesting rafts that will provide shelter for local populations of terns and cormorants. Tony McDonough reports
Wirral Waters is the centre of a multi-billion pound regeneration programme – and it will also be a haven for seabirds.
Peel L&P, owner of Wirral Waters, has installed a series of specialised nesting rafts that will provide shelter for local populations of terns and cormorants. They will sit within Morpeth Dock, near to a current tern nesting site at Buchannan’s Jetty on the East Float.
There will also be 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 will 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.
Similar to many of the ships coming in and out of the Mersey, terns 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.
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.”
Peel L&P is committed to using local contractors and not-for-profit organisations and so the nesting rafts have been manufactured by Green Future Building, a social enterprise, and installed by local contractor Total Industrial and Domestic Services.
The nesting rafts will occupy Morpeth Dock for a five-year period, with the islands subsequently being relocated to Gillbrook Basin on the West Float in 2025 as the Wirral Waters project continues to develop.
This project is also being supported by The Environment Partnership 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.