The Wash SPA

Status: Designated

Description

Site overview

This site 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 from much of the east Midlands of England. The intertidal flats here are full of small worms, along with beds of glasswort which act as a food source for a large numbers of waterbirds.  This is also a breeding ground for shellfish including mussels, cockles and shrimps. These provide food for oystercatchers. Large numbers of geese, ducks and waders live here, both in spring and autumn.  Over half of the total population of Canada/Greenland breeding knots live here.

MPA Type

Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites designated uner European legislation. They are established to protect rare and vulnerable birds and for regularly occurring migratory species.

Designation date

1 March 1988

Surface Area

620.55 km2 (239.60 mi.2)

Perimeter

122.63 km (76.20 mi.)

Coordinates (central point)

52° 56' 18" North, 0° 17' 18" East

  • Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

    A small shore bird whose name refers to its habit of creeping and fluttering over rocks, picking out food from under stones.

  • Sanderling (Calidris alba)

    A a small, plump, energetic wading bird.

  • Little tern (Sterna albifrons)

    This bird is one of the smallest of its species. Breeding colonies are located on beaches nearby shallow, sheltered waters which offer good foraging for small fish and invertebrates.

  • Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope)

    Sites in the UK are an important wintering ground for these small ducks.

  • Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)

    A long-billed, long-legged wading bird that visits the UK in the winter.

  • Waterfowl assemblage

    Important areas where a number of waterfowl species occur in significant numbers.

  • Common tern (Sterna hirundo)

    A silvery-grey and white bird sometimes called a ‘sea swallow’ because of it’s long tail.

  • Common redshank (Tringa totanus)

    As this bird’s name suggests, its’ most distinctive features are its’ bright orange-red legs.

  • Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)

    A medium-sized goose that winters in the UK. Numbers are increasing in England, probably because of better protection at winter roosts.

  • Red knot (Calidris canutus)

    A dumpy, short-legged, stocky wading bird that depends on the rich source of worms and shellfish in estuaries. Large numbers come to the UK in the winter.

  • Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

    A familiar, stocky, black and white wading bird that mostly depends on mussels and cockles.

  • Common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

    A medium sized diving duck with a distinctive yellow eye.

  • Dunlin (Calidris alpina alpina)

    The commonest small wading bird found around UK shores with a distinctive black belly in the summer.

  • Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa islandica)

    A large wading bird with a very distinctive long beak.

  • Black (common) scoter (Melanitta nigra)

    The common scoter is seaduck. The UK breeding population of this small diving seaduck has substantially declined and it is now a Red List species.

  • Grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

    A widely distributed shorebird that prefers sandy and muddy estuaries.

  • Common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

    This is a big, colourful duck, bigger than a mallard but smaller than a goose.

  • Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata)

    This widely distributed wading bird with its distinctive long, curved bill is threatened by habitat loss.

  • Northern pintail (Anas acuta)

    This duck is slightly bigger than a mallard and has a very distinctive long tail that tapers to a point.

  • Dark-bellied brent goose (Branta bernicla bernicla)

    A small dark goose which occurs in good numbers at just a few sites in the UK. They are vegetarian and particularly partial to seagrass.

  • Gadwall (Anas strepera)

    A grey dabbling duck a little smaller than the familiar mallard.

  • Marine areas, Sea inlets
  • Tidal rivers, Estuaries, Mud flats, Sand flats, Lagoons (including saltwork basins)
  • Salt marshes, Salt pastures, Salt steppes

Did you know?…

Over half a million people have voiced their support for ‘marine protected area’ designation in the UK through our campaigns

Over 500,000 records on undersea habitats and species have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers providing significant evidence for inshore ‘marine protected areas’

Over 170 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum signed up to our Marine Charter calling for a network of ‘marine protected areas’ in UK Seas

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