We have a busy few months ahead out on the wet grassland with two significant projects being delivered on top of the annual habitat management work.   Whilst this work is being undertaken there will inevitably be some disturbance so we thought you’d like to know what we’re up to…

Our first project the ‘wetland enhancement’ project will kick off next week and has been designed to improve the wet grassland habitat, especially on the South Brooks for the particular benefit of breeding waders. 

Redshanks are one of the breeding waders that we hope will benefit from this work. Redshank chick by Graham Osborne

The most significant changes will be taking place in the areas close to West Mead and Winpenny hides. There will be a digger on site creating new scrapes, new islands and reprofiling some of the edges of existing wet features. All of these ‘scrape enhancements’ will create more edge habitat which will benefit breeding and passage waders.

The hides will not be closed but when the digger is operating close to the hides there will be disturbance. The intention was to start work at West Mead however, given the late wader chick activity in this area, the work may begin at Winpenny instead.  The work is scheduled to start on 13 July and will take around 2 weeks to complete.  We will of course be taking great care not to disturb any young broods of wader chicks.

Once the scrape enhancement work has been completed the activity will move from the hides and out towards the river bank and southern end of the reserve when work will be focused on the ‘in-field wet features’ and we’ll be lowering their profile which will help us to keep water on site for longer through the late spring and summer. We expect this work to be completed by the end of July/early August.

You might also see the tractor in action on the South Brooks undertaking weed wiping and topping. This is an annual task to keep on top of the growth of soft rush which can begin to dominate the wet grassland if left unchecked. It also ensures that the vegetation sward height is suitable –both our breeding waders and our wintering wildfowl tend to prefer areas of shorter turf.

Creating more edge habitat, muddy margins and holding onto in-field water for longer in late spring and summer creates more suitable feeding opportunities for breeding waders; especially our lapwings, redshank and avocet.  In the summer and early autumn the muddy margins are popular with migrating waders such as sandpipers. As we’re improving the areas in front of West Mead and Winpenny hide this should mean better views of wetland birds in the future.

Hopefully we'll be seeing more of these:

Lapwing & chick by Graham Osborne

The final part of the wetland enhancement project work will be the creation of ditch scallops. This will take place on the South Brooks at the beginning of August and then move across to the North Brooks later in the month. Ditch scallops are widened sections of the existing ditches which enable us to have areas where denser aquatic vegetation can be retained, creating refuges for wildlife such as our rare Little Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail and water voles whilst the central channel of the ditches can be kept clear of vegetation and silt to allow water flow.

Water vole by Graham Osborne

 All of these works have been funded by the Biffa Award. Biffa Award is a multi million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives by awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK.