Estuarine sites in the UK provide important habitat for non-breeding waterbirds. They serve as wintering grounds for many migrants and also as stopover feeding locations for other waterbirds passing along the East Atlantic Flyway. Core Counts on estuaries tend to quantify birds present at high tide roosts. Although important, knowledge of roost sites provides only part of the picture, and does not elucidate the use that waterbirds make of a site for feeding.
WeBS data contribute greatly to the conservation of waterbirds by providing supporting information for the establishment and management of UK Ramsar sites and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), other site designations and whole estuary conservation plans.
WeBS Low Tide Counts specifically enhance our knowledge of the low water distribution of waterbirds and provide data that highlight regional variations in habitat use, whilst also informing protection of the important foraging areas identified. WeBS Low Tide Counts provide valuable information needed to gauge the potential effects on waterbirds of a variety of human activities which affect the extent or value of inter-tidal habitats, such as proposals for dock developments, recreational activities, tidal power barrages, marinas and housing schemes. Designing mitigation or compensation for such activities can be assisted using data collected under the scheme. Furthermore, the effects on bird distributions of climate change and sea level rise can be assessed.
WeBS Low Tide Counts were carried out at 18 estuaries in the most recently reported year, 2011/12. This included coverage of some large sites such as the Humber Estuary (Yorkshire/ Lincolnshire), Swale Estuary (Kent) and Blackwater Estuary (Essex).