Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

During this Atlas period, two adults briefly visited Inner Marsh Farm (SJ37B) on 2 June 2004.

Spoonbills used to nest in Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries, but then faded away to become a rare visitor. Only three records exist in the old Cheshire avifaunas, birds shot at Tatton Mere about 1850 or 1860, and at Burton in 1864 (Coward 1910), and one seen at Tabley and Oakmere in April 1920 (Bell 1962).

In recent times this species has been much more commonly found in Britain, and in Cheshire and Wirral. From 1990 onwards it was recorded annually in the county, increasingly showing breeding intent. Then, in 1996, up to five birds were present and a pair displayed and built a nest in a flooded hawthorn hedge at Frodsham Marsh (around the boundary of four tetrads, SJ47Y/ 47Z/ 57D/ 57E), close to several Grey Heron nests. After more than a week of mating rituals, bill clapping, copulation and nest building, the pair abandoned their nest (Schofield 1996). One of the pair had been ringed as a chick in the Netherlands in 1992, and proved to be mobile, being recorded more than fifty times in its life, in four European countries (Norman 2000). Birds had also displayed and carried sticks, but no more, in 1996 at Inner Marsh Farm. Spoonbills were again present at Frodsham, with some nest-building seen, in 1997, but that was the end of breeding activities in the county, although birds, mostly immatures, were recorded in every year from then to 2003, usually at Inner Marsh Farm (SJ38B). Their occurrences in Cheshire and Wirral have dwindled such that the two birds there for a few minutes in 2004 were the only breeding season records in the three years of this Atlas.

Spoonbills successfully bred in Lancashire in 1999 and built nests in Suffolk in 2002 and elsewhere in northern England in 2004 (Holling et al 2007).

Five immature Spoonbills overwintered on the Dee estuary in 1997/ 98, but there were no winter records at all during this Atlas. Most birds migrate to west Africa.