Hi everyone! Here's another blog from our volunteer Elke.
"While restrictions in this second COVID-19 wave are tightened everywhere in the UK, the reserve is a natural sanctuary as always and has been profiting from the recent quiet: several whooper swans arrived at the reserve this week, gracefully gliding over our darkish early November skies.
Whooper swans over Aird Meadow, by Richard Bennett
The whooper swan, considered by some the most elegant of the swan family, also takes on one of the longest migratory routes - those which visit us over the winter mostly breed in Iceland, travelling distances between 800 and 1400km at very high altitude to the UK and Ireland to winter. These highly social birds have been observed to bond with their mate for life. They stay together throughout the year, from meeting in the winter to migrating north and breeding in the late spring. However, in case of nesting failures or loss of their mate, they’re susceptible to change mates or even to choose not to mate again!
Our reserve presents an ideal habitat for the swans’ wintering since they prefer aquatic and terrestrial grass zones such as our wetland, as well as estuaries, sheltered coasts and river systems. They feed on aquatic vegetation and leftover arable crops and plants, such as potatoes, sugar beets, oilseed rape and winter wheat. Scientists in China actually found out that swans use different levels of water at different stages of the winter, with low and high water levels in the early winter and predominantly high and intermediate water level areas and a shift from aquatic to newly emerged terrestrial areas. Maybe we’ll notice a difference in their local distribution in the reserve?
Speaking of changes in water levels, we’ve had some recent flooding at the reserve. It’s nothing new or out of the ordinary, with the low banks of the lochs and heavy rain in general tending to cause floods in different areas of the reserve. While flooding poses problems to our reserve management, especially to infrastructure such as to the natural play area, hides and trails, it is essentially a dynamic natural process which can be beneficial in maintaining certain habitats. For example, it allows birds to access other areas when levels rise: whooper swans can feed on emerged grasses and aquatic plants. It also creates muddy edges, a habitat exploited by many birds who can sift through the wet sediments for seeds or invertebrates. Moreover, flooding encourages the distribution of nutrients between habitats, so flood management really needs to take into account how it affects our manmade infrastructures and the positive and negative effects it has on the natural world.
Finally, here are our weekly sightings at the reserve. Try to find species you know and remember the other ones for your next visit! Highlights in bold.
Aird Meadow pond
Aird Meadow Loch
Aird meadow trail
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