MOTORISTS have protected birds to thank for avoiding a full summer of roadworks, after avocets were found nesting alongside the A13.

Two dozen pairs of the protected species were found by National Grid engineers, who were hoping to carry out £30million of repairs to overhead cables and pylons along 24 miles from Rayleigh to Tilbury.

The proposed work meant drivers would have had to contend with temporary lane and road closures on the A127, A130 and A13 throughout the summer, but the work has been put back until the end of July, so the birds are not disturbed during the nesting season.

Work was scheduled to start in May, but was rescheduled following the discovery.

Project manager Graham Livings said: “National Grid has a vital job to do connecting people to their energy supplies. However, we always try to do our vital work as sensitively as possible, doing all we canto minimise any impact on local communities and the environment.

“Our ecologists work closely with local community stakeholders, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to ensure we don’t have any adverse impact on the local environment.

“Avocets are a very rare bird and, after discussions with the RSPB, we decided the best thing to do would be to postpone this section of the work.”

The black and white birds nest in colonies of up to 150 pairs and lay their eggs between mid-April and late June.

Their chicks fledge at about 35 to 42 days after hatching, but their chances of survival can be poor, depending on weather and food supply.

Having bred successfully, pairs will remain faithful to the site for years to come.

Following the birds’ discovery, all but one of the scheduled closures and lane restrictions have been postponed.

The only closure which has gone ahead was on the A130 underpass over the past weekend, to enable the lane restrictionto be lifted.

From Saturday, July 20, to Saturday, September 14, one lane of the A130 nearside on the underpass link westbound, towards London, will be closed due to temporary scaffolding being put up.

Over the weekend of July 27 and 28, night-time closures will take place on sections of the A13, A130 and Sadlers Farm interchange, so protective nets can be installed above the road surface.

Further closures will follow in August before coming to a close on September 15.

More works will then take place between June and October next year.