SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Ribble and Alt Estuaries

image: SPA location map 

 

The Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA lies on the coast of Lancashire and Merseyside in north-west England. It comprises two estuaries, of which the Ribble Estuary is by far the larger, together with an extensive area of sandy foreshore along the Sefton Coast. It forms part of the chain of western SPAs that fringe the Irish Sea. There is considerable interchange in the movements of wintering birds between this site and Morecambe Bay, the Mersey Estuary, the Dee Estuary and Martin Mere. A large proportion of the SPA is within the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The site consists of extensive sand- and mud-flats and, particularly in the Ribble Estuary, large areas of saltmarsh. There are also areas of coastal grazing marsh located behind the sea embankments. The intertidal flats are rich in invertebrates, on which waders and some of the wildfowl feed. The highest densities of feeding birds are on the muddier substrates of the Ribble, though sandy shores throughout are also used. The saltmarshes and coastal grazing marshes support high densities of grazing and seed-eating wildfowl and these, together with the intertidal sand- and mud-flats, are used as high-tide roosts. Important populations of waterbirds occur in winter, including swans, geese, ducks and waders. The SPA is also of major importance during the spring and autumn migration periods, especially for wader populations moving along the west coast of Britain. The larger expanses of saltmarsh and areas of coastal grazing marsh support breeding birds during the summer, including large concentrations of gulls and terns. These seabirds feed both offshore and inland, outside the SPA. Several species of waterbirds (notably Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus) utilise feeding areas on agricultural land outside the SPA boundary.

 

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, 182 pairs representing at least 1.5% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count, as at 1996)
 
Ruff Philomachus pugnax, 1 pairs representing at least 9.1% of the breeding population in Great Britain (Count as at late 1980's)
 
Over winter;
 
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, 18,958 individuals representing at least 35.8% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii, 229 individuals representing at least 3.3% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, 4,277 individuals representing at least 1.7% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, 159 individuals representing at least 2.9% 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:

 

During the breeding season;
 
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, 1,800 pairs representing at least 1.5% of the breeding Western Europe/Mediterranean/Western Africa population (Count, as at 1993)
 
On passage;
 
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, 995 individuals representing at least 2.0% of the Europe/Northern Africa - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Sanderling Calidris alba, 6,172 individuals representing at least 6.2% of the Eastern Atlantic/Western & Southern Africa - wintering population (3 year mean May 1993 - 1995)
 
Over winter;
 
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, 819 individuals representing at least 1.2% of the wintering Iceland - breeding population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, 39,952 individuals representing at least 2.9% of the wintering Northern Siberia/Europe/Western Africa population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, 6,073 individuals representing at least 4.0% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Knot Calidris canutus, 57,865 individuals representing at least 16.5% of the wintering Northeastern Canada/Greenland/Iceland/Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, 16,159 individuals representing at least 1.8% of the wintering Europe & Northern/Western Africa population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus, 23,860 individuals representing at least 10.6% of the wintering Eastern Greenland/Iceland/UK population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Pintail Anas acuta, 3,333 individuals representing at least 5.6% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Redshank Tringa totanus, 2,708 individuals representing at least 1.8% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Sanderling Calidris alba, 2,859 individuals representing at least 2.9% of the wintering Eastern Atlantic/Western & Southern Africa - wintering population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, 4,103 individuals representing at least 1.4% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Teal Anas crecca, 7,641 individuals representing at least 1.9% of the wintering Northwestern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Wigeon Anas penelope, 84,699 individuals representing at least 6.8% of the wintering Western Siberia/Northwestern/Northeastern Europe population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
 
Assemblage qualification: A seabird assemblage of international importance
 
The area qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by regularly supporting at least 20,000 seabirds
 
During the breeding season, the area regularly supports 29,236 individual seabirds including: Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, Common Tern Sterna hirundo.
 
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 301,449 individual waterfowl (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6) including: Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus, Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Wigeon Anas penelope, Teal Anas crecca, Bewick's Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii, Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, Curlew Numenius arquata, Knot Calidris canutus, Sanderling Calidris alba, Dunlin Calidris alpina alpina, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica, Redshank Tringa totanus, Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Pintail Anas acuta.
 

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.