No? That’s because I made it up. But it got your attention. While I can’t offer you the opportunity to vote to name a multi-million pound research vessel, the RRS Spoony McSpoonface, I can introduce you to the actual, bird equivalent – behold, the bird with a beak shaped like everyone’s favourite dining utensil – the Eurasian Spoonbill. And no, I honestly didn’t duct tape a spoon to a wading bird’s face, or use any form of digital wizardry to invent nature’s answer to kitchen tongs.
The spoonbill is a collective of spatulate-faced wading birds, of multiple species, endemic in places all around the planet – providing birdwatching comic relief the world over.
The reason I draw your attention to this bizarre bird, is because I recently discovered that my local harbour supports the second largest overwinter breeding colony in the UK. And right now, there’s an open consultation on the proposal to extend the Marine Protection Area for the sake of the Eurasian Spoonbill and two other species – the Little Egret and the Sandwich Tern.
Poole Harbour MPA already supports a range of ‘features’, that is, bird species that qualify for protection by the MPA. It attracts the second largest overwintering population of Pied Avocet, the aristocrat jewel of the wetlands, with its upturned bill, elegant blueish-grey legs and fine white plumage with a striking black cap. If the Avocet is the upper class wader, the Mediterranean Gull, squawking that familiar seaside chorus, is the common masses – Poole Harbour fosters the largest colony in the UK. 6 species designated as Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive, so, species that are afforded special protections, make Poole Harbour Special Protection Area, their home. The MPA ensures that habitats are maintained, breeding populations are undisturbed by human activity and sites are restored to support these populations.
Now I mentioned Boaty McBoatface earlier, not simply to pique interest. I had a hidden agenda. Whatever your feeling towards the name for the NERC polar research ship, everyone’s heard of it. The name may not inspire visions of breakthrough, high profile scientific research, but like a friend of mine said; “they have a ready made childrens tv show!” Its legacy now might be derived more from what it teaches the public than from what it learns of the polar regions. It has real potential to engage and inform a nation, still chortling with a touch of pride at its comic genius. British humour might be the one thing unanimously able to spark our national pride. We laugh as a nation united over Boaty McBoatface. So I offer you now, Spoony McSpoonface and invite you to turn your good sense of humour to foster pride for our delightfully diverse, wacky and stupidly named wildlife (Who hasn’t laughed at birdwatching interpretation when they see the name; ‘Shag’?)
So my ulterior motive all along? Encourage you to respond to the consultation. It asks you a few yes or no questions with an option to explain your answer or if you prefer, to just leave it blank. It’s so important that the general public, us, participate in consultations that affect the natural environment of our local spaces. I encourage you to skim the briefing but I must confess, I found it quite a heavy read. So if you’re interested in bringing your voice to the fray, but don’t want to trawl through reams of jargonised text – I’ll sum up the key information here. Disclaimer, I’m somewhat biased in favour of the proposal and if your confidence in me waivered because I couldn’t deliver Spoony McSpoonface as the headline promised, I direct you to source.
The Proposal ?
Extend the MPA boundaries to include intertidal and subtidal zones and further the landward boundary, which is crucial to foraging and roosting birds.
What birdlife will it support?
The Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, mediterranean gull, Little Egret, Pied Avocet, the Icelandic-race Black-tailed Godwit, Shelduck (Hey wait, isn’t that a pokemon? What do you get when you cross a Shelduck and a Eurasian Spoonbill? Psychic spoons and a lot of really confused readers.) And that’s just the overwintering waterfowl. Geese, Teal, Curlew, Greenshank, Red-breasted Merganser. The names get ever more ridiculous and wonderful.
Why is this site so important?
It is in the top 10 sites for populations of a majority of the bird species listed as ‘proposed features’ by the proposal. It ranks:
Little Egret (1st)
Mediterranean Gull (1st)
Eurasian Spoonbill (2nd)
Black-tailed Godwit (4th)
Sandwich Tern (13th)
Common Tern (20th)
Respond to the consultation. Vote to protect Spoony McSpoonface.
If you’re feeling consultation-crazed and want to voice your support for another marine site – there is another proposal for the establishment of an SPA site along the Dorset and Solent coast, between the Isle of Purbeck and Bognor Regis.
*The consultations end on the 21st of April at 5pm
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