SPA description
(information as published 2001)

The Swale

image: SPA location map 

 

The Swale is located on the south side of the outer part of the Thames Estuary in south-eastern England. The Swale is an estuarine area that separates the Isle of Sheppey from the Kent mainland. To the west it adjoins the Medway Estuary. It is a complex of brackish and freshwater, floodplain grazing marsh with ditches, and intertidal saltmarshes and mud-flats. The intertidal flats are extensive, especially in the east of the site, and support a dense invertebrate fauna. These invertebrates, together with beds of algae and Eelgrass Zostera spp., are important food sources for waterbirds. Locally there are large Mussel Mytilus edulis beds formed on harder areas of substrate. The SPA contains the largest extent of grazing marsh in Kent (although much reduced from its former extent). There is much diversity both in the salinity of the dykes (which range from fresh to strongly brackish) and in the topography of the fields. The wide diversity of coastal habitats found on the Swale combine to support important numbers of waterbirds throughout the year. In summer, the site is of importance for Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, breeding waders and Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus. In spring and autumn migration periods, as well as during winter, the Swale supports very large numbers of geese, ducks and waders. 

 


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;
 
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, 103 pairs representing at least 17.5% of the breeding population in Great Britain (RBBP 1996)
 
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, 24 pairs representing at least 15.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1995)
 
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, 12 pairs representing at least 120.0% of the breeding population in Great Britain (RBBP 1996)
 
Over winter;
 
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, 89 individuals representing at least 7.0% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, 542 individuals representing at least 1.0% of the wintering population in Great Britain (Count as at 91/92-95/96)
 
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, 2,862 individuals representing at least 1.1% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, 23 individuals representing at least 3.1% of the wintering population in Great Britain (Count as at 1996/8)
 
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, 683 individuals representing at least 1.4% of the Europe/Northern Africa - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Over winter;
 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, 1,755 individuals representing at least 2.5% of the wintering Iceland - breeding population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, 2,021 individuals representing at least 1.3% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Knot Calidris canutus, 5,582 individuals representing at least 1.6% of the wintering Northeastern Canada/Greenland/Iceland/Northwestern Europe population (Count as at 91/92-95/96)
 
Pintail Anas acuta, 966 individuals representing at least 1.6% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Redshank Tringa totanus, 1,640 individuals representing at least 1.1% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Shoveler Anas clypeata, 471 individuals representing at least 1.2% of the wintering Northwestern/Central Europe 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 65,390 individual waterfowl (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6) including: White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons albifrons, Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Pintail Anas acuta, Shoveler Anas clypeata, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Knot Calidris canutus, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, Redshank Tringa totanus, Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Curlew Numenius arquata, Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla, Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Wigeon Anas penelope, Gadwall Anas strepera, Teal Anas crecca, Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis.

 


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.