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One of UK's rarest birds spotted at Basingstoke sewage works

Wednesday 20th January 2021 10:35

Jack Prater and a green sandpiper at Basingstoke sewage works

One of Britain’s rarest birds has been caught on camera – at a sewage treatment site in Hampshire.

The green sandpiper, believed to be one of a pair, was photographed by Thames Water green energy technician Jack Prater at Basingstoke Sewage Works.

According to the RSPB, there are only one or two breeding pairs of the waders in the UK, with fewer than 1,000 migrating here for the winter. As a result, they are classed as ‘amber’ in the UK’s traffic light system of conservation importance.

Jack, 27, from Chineham, spends his day running the machinery which transforms Basingstoke’s poo into electricity – but in his spare time he loves taking pictures of wildlife.

One weekend he took his camera to the treatment works to try and capture the wonderful array of animals and birds that call it home, including buzzards, pheasants, wagtails, badgers and roe deer.

Speaking about the green sandpiper, Jack said: “I'd previously spotted a pair of them here so always wanted to photograph them without knowing what they were, but after sharing the image in a local photography group I was told it was a very rare green sandpiper.

“The one I photographed was the bigger of the two and a bit braver than the smaller one which flies off as soon as you go anywhere near it.

“Apparently only around 900 of the birds usually winter in the UK – and there are only known to be one to two breeding pairs. We don’t know if the pair at our works are winter visitors or maybe even a new breeding pair no-one knew about.”

It is thought ducks, geese and waders like sewage works because the pools and lagoons contain rich nutrients perfect for insects and plankton to thrive – and never dry out in summer.

Jack’s day job is to help the site produce enough energy from waste to power itself, following a £53m upgrade to treble its energy generation capacity, reducing both its carbon footprint and operating costs.

Special reactors, similar to giant pressure cookers, heat up sewage during the treatment process to help produce biogas. This is then converted into around 50 megawatt hours (Mwh) of electricity every day – enough to power the equivalent of 2,850 homes.

Basingstoke Sewage Works is no stranger to rare animals. In November 2019 a three-foot long ‘false water cobra’ was rescued after being spotted slithering across a path.