Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer.

As I stood in the queue to make my emergency purchase last week, the shop assistant declared, “This is the most umbrellas we’ve sold in months.”  With soggy feet, wrinkly toes, and less-than-glamorous, damp hair, I was beginning to seriously dislike the rain!

But as we know, one of the worst droughts in living memory is currently gripping us. As I’m writing this, the age old cliché of ‘April showers’ is putting in a bold appearance.  However, we would need weeks and weeks of rain in order to beat this drought.

Knowing how serious the situation is has made me much more conscientious at home with my water use. I take shorter showers, use a water-butt to store water for gardening and wash clothes only when I have a full load.  It’s like anything really. So often, we only realize how precious a resource is when there is a chance it could be taken away.

It is comforting to know too that RSPB reserve staff are doing their bit. Managing a nature reserve is no easy task, especially when there are so many factors at play. Demanding birds and wildlife, constantly changing weather conditions and a variety of habitats keep even the sprightliest of reserve wardens on their toes!  At RSPB Titchwell Marsh on the Norfolk coast, the staff use a natural spring to feed a series of ditches around the reserve. This then acts as a super-sized bath tub.  When parts of the reserve need more water, the plug can be pulled and the water will drain into them, meaning the wildlife will continue to thrive.

Of course it’s not quite as simple as this.  Maintaining water levels on a site like Titchwell requires a complex range of control devices; if too much water goes into the fresh water habitats then the avocets will not settle. If too little water, the area will dry up and there will be no food for the birds and their chicks. It is certainly a fine balance and the dry winter conditions have certainly had an effect.

With the drought situation being what it is, the outlook for summer at Titchwell is uncertain. Habitats will naturally dry up when the weather gets warmer and this means the precious water supplies will need to stretch even further.  But, planning for this will make all the difference. You may not have a nature reserve in your back garden, but taking steps now to ensure that you have a healthy, well-watered garden in the summer will pay dividends, and your garden wildlife will certainly thank you for it.

Featured in the EDP, Saturday 29 April