SPA description
(information as published 2001)

The Wash

image: SPA location map 

 

The Wash is located on the east coast of England and is the largest estuarine system in the UK. It is fed by the rivers Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse that drain much of the east Midlands of England. The Wash comprises very extensive saltmarshes, major intertidal banks of sand and mud, shallow waters and deep channels. The eastern end of the site includes low chalk cliffs at Hunstanton. In addition, on the eastern side, the gravel pits at Snettisham are an important high-tide roost for waders. The intertidal flats have a rich invertebrate fauna and colonising beds of Glasswort Salicornia spp. which are important food sources for the large numbers of waterbirds dependent on the site. The sheltered nature of The Wash creates suitable breeding conditions for shellfish, principally Mussel Mytilus edulis, Cockle Cardium edule and shrimps. These are important food sources for some waterbirds such as Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus. The Wash is of outstanding importance for a large number of geese, ducks and waders, both in spring and autumn migration periods, as well as through the winter. The SPA is especially notable for supporting a very large proportion (over half) of the total population of Canada/Greenland breeding Knot Calidris canutus islandica. In summer, the Wash is an important breeding area for terns and as a feeding area for Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus that breed just outside the SPA.

To the north, the coastal habitats of The Wash are continuous with Gibraltar Point SPA, whilst to the east The Wash adjoins the North Norfolk Coast SPA.
 
For more information see Phased, extended and subsumed SPAs

Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section


 

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:
 
During the breeding season;
 
Common Tern Sterna hirundo, 152 pairs representing at least 1.2% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1993)
 
Little Tern Sterna albifrons, 33 pairs representing at least 1.4% of the breeding population in Great Britain (5 year mean, 1992-1996)
 
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, 15 pairs representing at least 9.4% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at 1995)
 
Over winter;
 
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, 110 individuals representing at least 8.7% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, 11,250 individuals representing at least 21.2% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, 11,037 individuals representing at least 4.4% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, 68 individuals representing at least 1.2% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
This site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following migratory species:
 
On passage;
 
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, 1,185 individuals representing at least 2.4% of the Europe/Northern Africa - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Sanderling Calidris alba, 1,854 individuals representing at least 1.9% of the Eastern Atlantic/Western & Southern Africa - wintering population (2 year mean Aug 1994 - 1995)
 
Over winter;
 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, 859 individuals representing at least 1.2% of the wintering Iceland - breeding population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Curlew Numenius arquata, 3,835 individuals representing at least 1.1% of the wintering Europe - breeding population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla, 22,248 individuals representing at least 7.4% of the wintering Western Siberia/Western Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, 35,620 individuals representing at least 2.5% of the wintering Northern Siberia/Europe/Western Africa population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, 9,708 individuals representing at least 6.5% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Knot Calidris canutus, 186,892 individuals representing at least 53.4% of the wintering Northeastern Canada/Greenland/Iceland/Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, 25,651 individuals representing at least 2.9% of the wintering Europe & Northern/Western Africa population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus, 33,265 individuals representing at least 14.8% of the wintering Eastern Greenland/Iceland/UK population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Pintail Anas acuta, 923 individuals representing at least 1.5% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Redshank Tringa totanus, 2,953 individuals representing at least 2.0% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, 15,981 individuals representing at least 5.3% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Turnstone Arenaria interpres, 717 individuals representing at least 1.0% of the wintering Western Palearctic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Assemblage qualification: A wetland of international importance.
 
The area qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by regularly supporting at least 20,000 waterfowl
 
Over winter, the area regularly supports 400,273 individual waterfowl (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6) including: Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus, Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla, Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Pintail Anas acuta, Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, Sanderling Calidris alba, Curlew Numenius arquata, Redshank Tringa totanus, Turnstone Arenaria interpres, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons, Wigeon Anas penelope, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Knot Calidris canutus, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus.

 


Note:

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.
 
Note that sites selected for waterbird species on the basis of their occurrence in the breeding, passage or winter periods also provide legal protection for these species when they occur at other times of the year.