Plans are underway for some large scale habitat management work on the reserve during the first week of February. This will see mature bramble scrub cleared from various areas in order to maintain a more diverse range of habitats as well as improving some of the views from the trails.
The areas opened up will help to create a patchwork of different habitat types and structures, with increased edge features. These changes will encourage a wider variety of plant species, and in turn a more diverse range of insects such as butterflies, moths and bumble bees, as well as birds.
With the reserve now in it's 25th anniversary year of opening, areas which were once bare ground or open grassland following the reserve's creation have gradually developed into mature scrub and trees through ecological succession, with the reserve becoming generally more overgrown each year. On a relatively small site we want to maintain as much diversity as possible in terms of habitats and species present so carrying out this type of habitat management is necessary on a regular basis. The photo shows similar work taking place in February 2018.
More routine habitat management work has also been ongoing over the winter, involving the removal of reed, bramble and other tall vegetation on a smaller scale. Most of this is focussed around the lagoon edges and on the islands to create open areas for water birds to feed, roost and nest in the spring time, and also along the trails and around hides and viewing screens to maintain access and views for visitors.
Meanwhile, bird sightings around the reserve have remained fairly consistent over the past month with at least two firecrests continuing to show almost daily, mostly around the bridge pond area. Spotted redshank have been another highlight with an individual seen on 28/12, two present on 11/1 and one individual present again on 12/1.
Other wader highlights have included greenshank fairly regularly with a peak of seven on 11/1. A single black-tailed godwit has been around the lagoons on most days, and snipe, lapwing and curlew are present in good numbers. A woodcock was also seen over the reserve on 15/1.
Wildfowl have continued to include small numbers of goldeneye, pochard and merganser almost daily among the more abundant wigeon, teal and gadwall. Shoveler have also been present daily with a good reserve count of 20 on 12/1. Individual goosander have also been seen on several occasions and a single great crested grebe has been present on most days.
A water rail survey on 18/1 revealed 11 individuals of this generally elusive species responding to calls played over a speaker at various locations around the reserve with suitable habitat. This number is similar to last year, a relatively low count for the reserve which is possibly due to the mild weather resulting in fewer birds moving from the continent or further west within the UK (photo by Dave Williams).
The new year began with a well attended New Years Day Bird Walk (pictured), while regular volunteer led Wildlife Walks continued each Saturday. A Binocular and Telescope Weekend was held on 4/1 and 5/1, while for younger visitors a winter related Story Telling and Activities session was held on 11/1. Muddy Puddles activity sessions for pre-school children re-commenced each Wednesday at the beginning of the new term, while Nordic Walking and Tai-Chi Workshops have continued on Thursdays, and the monthly Farmer's Market was held the week before Christmas on 18/12.
Looking ahead, the Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend will take place on 25/1 and 26/1 with various activities for children and special offers on bird food in the reserve shop. February half term will also feature a series of children's events including the Feathered Friends Food Trail where children can learn all about what birds eat which runs throughout half term, a Build your own Nest-box event on 15/2, a Wildlife Drop-in with pond dipping sessions on 19/2, Love Lego, Love Nature! on 20/2 where children will create animations using iPads while exploring the reserve, and a FunPlay Friday event on 21/2 with a variety of activities available.
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