Little Ringed Plovers on Salford Docklands, An EcoTourism Opportunity

Photo: Little Ringed Plover with chicks on Pomona (Courtesy of Salford Docklands Heritage and Nature Group)

The Little Ringed Plover, known amongst the birding community as LRP, a Schedule 1 species and a summer migrant to the UK, has bred on Salford Docklands for many years, however, the species has suffered large scale habitat destruction

North Wharf (the site of MediaCity), Middlewood Locks and Pomona are the three main sites on Salford Docklands where the species has bred over the years, the brownfield sites that are adjacent to water with muddy feeding habitat have proved to be perfect for this highly legally protected species

However, the North Wharf site has now been built on with MediaCity, and there is development on Middlewood Locks, therefore, Pomona is now the last remaining site for the species

At North Wharf, professional bird scarers were photographed working to stop the Plovers from breeding and this was documented at the time in the Salford Star

During the planning of MediaCity, Greater Manchester Ecology Unit (GMEU) were consulted, but their (non-legally binding) recommendations of green roofs, that provide nesting habitat for LRPs (and Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Skylarks and Black Redstarts) were not implemented, therefore, there is no more habitat at present for the species on North Wharf

At Middlewood Locks, GMEU ecologists recorded LRPs confirmed breeding in the summer of 2011, with a pair with 3 chicks seen, along with breeding Ringed Plovers and Lapwings

However, the Middlewood Locks site is now being built on in the relentless neo-liberal political drive to pour as much concrete into Greater Manchester as possible!

Therefore, Pomona, where LRPs breed annually, is now the only habitat on Salford Docklands for this species that should receive some of the highest levels of state protection possible

Little Ringed Plovers on Pomona were shown to a national audience on the BBC Urban Jungle programme, where I showed David Lindo (aka The Urban Birder) around the Salford Docklands

At the moment, we risk losing these dainty, beautiful Plovers from a site that once supported a healthy population and this would be a tragedy as much as Cecil The Lion

However, with education, sensible decisions on planning and the Salford Quays business community introducing green roofs on buildings we could once again have a healthy population of these unique and popular birds that could provide an EcoTourism attraction

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