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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 July, 2004, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Haven for wading birds created
Lapwing - RSPB
There were 49 lapwing nests in the last count
Wading birds are returning to Norfolk in increasing numbers less than a year after arable fields were turned into wildlife habitats.

Nearly 30 hectares of land on the Raveningham Estate between Norwich and Beccles have been converted back to Broads grazing marshes.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded the project, which began last August.

A recent nest count recorded 49 lapwing nests and 15 avocet nests on the site.

There were also 13 redshank and one little ringed plover.

Defra project officer Colin Hitchman said: "The estate is showing great commitment to enhancing the environment at the same time as running a large farming operation.

Managing habitats

"The next stage is to encourage the birds to continue using the site by managing the variety of habitats on the different marshes through grazing.

"For example, lapwings like short grass without tussocks, but redshanks prefer a slightly more tussocky sward."

Redshanks prefer a tussocky sward
Raveningham Estate, which covers an area of 40 square kilometres, has been in the family of current landowner Sir Nicholas Bacon for more than 300 years.

Jake Fiennes for the Estate said: "Work started on arable reversion last August, with the aim of making previously drained land significantly wetter.

"It's early days, but so far the results have been very encouraging.

"As well as the increase in bird numbers, we are also noticing more invertebrates and aquatic plants in the dykes."

Payments of around 7m have been made to farmers and land managers in the East of England under Defra's Environmentally Sensitive Area funding scheme.

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