Project information

A Safe Haven for Europe's Wetland Birds

The Somerset Levels is a key part of Britain’s natural heritage. We will restore habitat on nature reserves to secure the future for thousands of wild birds that flock to Somerset from Europe to breed or overwinter. Visitors will be able to experience one of Britain’s finest wildlife spectacles.

April 2018 - December 2020

Charity information: Somerset Wildlife Trust

Somerset Wildlife Trust logo
  • Need


    Britain’s breeding population of wading birds has collapsed due to habitat loss. For example the lapwing population in England declined by 80% between 1960 and 1998. These declines were mirrored in Somerset, but unlike many other British wetlands, the Somerset population clings on. We urgently need to improve breeding habitat around core areas to give wetland birds a more secure foothold in the landscape. This will also help birds from all over Europe which overwinter in Somerset.


    Through breeding bird surveys, we have learned more about the kind of habitat species like snipe, lapwing and redshank need for breeding. With this funding we will manage water, so that levels are just right, and create new shallow pools that are good for feeding chicks. This will allow breeding populations to increase by spreading out to new areas. Shallow pools will also attract more wintering birds, making the reserves even more spectacular for the thousands of people who visit each year.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Somerset Wildlife Trust creates more habitat for wintering and breeding birds.


    » Create new wet features like gutters, graded ditch edges and shallow scrapes, particularly in places where people can see birds from hides.
    » Install new water control infrastructure to enable better water level management for birds.
    » Improve wet grassland nesting habitat by controlling problem plant species and providing better access for management.
    » Install predator proof gateways and reduce the number of predator perches to make the habitat more attractive for breeding and wintering birds.

    What success will look like

    Intensive monitoring of habitat quality and birds will demonstrate the effectiveness of our work. Monitoring will continue after the end of the project.

    Aim 2

    Somerset Wildlife Trust optimises grazing and water management to maximise breeding success


    » Monitor breeding and wintering birds through a mixture of volunteer effort and specialist surveys.
    » Feed back survey data to optimise decisions about water level control and grazing management

    What success will look like

    Surveys will contribute to management decisions to create a beneficial feedback loop. This will enable us to learn what works best for the birds on each of our reserves.

  • Impact


    By improving reserves in the Somerset Levels we will give vulnerable species like snipe, lapwing and redshank a more secure foothold in the landscape. At present the overwhelming majority of breeding birds are on just two reserves. We will restore good habitat on other reserves and over time populations will be able to expand from the two core sites. This will help to secure the birds’ future in lowland Britain. Good habitat for breeding birds will also be good for wintering flocks from Europe.


    We must avoid disturbance to breeding and wintering wildlife. This means our window for work is from August to October. Unusually wet weather at this time of year can result in poor ground conditions and limit our access with machinery. To mitigate this risk we have timed the project over two seasons. There is a risk that bird populations will not respond in the way we expect. To mitigate this risk we have carried out extensive desk and field research to learn what has worked elsewhere.


    We will send donors email updates covering forthcoming activities, changes to the project and long term achievements so they can see the outcomes of their donations. We will invite our pledgers and champions for a tour of our reserves to experience first-hand the impact of their contribution.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £21,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £5,000 Habitat creation New shallow water and muddy edge habitats perfect for foraging chicks
      £5,000 Habitat improvements Control of problem plants to create perfect nesting conditions
      £8,000 Water Management New water management infrastructure to hold the right water levels
      £3,000 Monitoring Specialist bird surveys
  • Background


    The Somerset Levels is a flat landscape extending across central Somerset. The Somerset Levels are special because of the farming systems, landscape and wildlife that have developed around the ebb and flow of flooding. The biodiversity of the area is of national and international importance, reflected in the protection of 13% of its 65,800Ha area under UK and European Law, and an International wetlands convention. It is a particularly important area for breeding and wintering wetland birds.


    Breeding birds like snipe and wintering birds like pintail duck will benefit, but so will people. There is overwhelming evidence that contact with nature has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing. We estimate that our biggest reserve is visited 20,000 times a year. People who don’t visit will also benefit. Improving water management on our reserves will mitigate climate change, by keeping carbon locked up in wet peat soils, and protect other areas from flooding, by storing water

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Somerset Wildlife Trust manages 72 nature reserves , which cover an area of 1,720 hectares (roughly equivalent in size to 2,000 football pitches). We have over 40 years’ experience of creating ideal conditions for wildlife and a proven track record in making our nature reserves great places to visit. We own key sites in the Somerset Levels with the most potential for breeding and wintering birds. Staff and volunteers work together to get work done as cost effectively as possible.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Mark Blake

    Reserves Manager: Mark has managed our Somerset Levels reserves for almost 10 years. He will plan work, commission contractors and manage volunteers.

    Adam Kasik

    Reserves Assistant: Adam will lead volunteer work parties carrying out habitat management and bird monitoring.

    Belinda Wheeler

    Landscape Ecologist: Belinda has 17 years experience of wetland ecology. She will provide ecological advice and monitoring expertise.

    Approx. 12 Volunteers

    We currently have 8 weekly volunteers carrying out habitat management and a further 4 volunteers carrying out bird monitoring.

Simon King, wildlife filmmaker and Somerset resident, explains the project

It is absolutely critical that we restore these reserves, which takes not just effort, but commitment from the Trust, and most importantly from you. Whatever you give will make a profound difference.

Simon King, wildlife filmmaker