Thursday, 19 August 2010

Non-stop fishing (a two Ruff(e) trip).

Put together a nice reedy edge and a good population of Rudd to get a booming Bittern. Bittern photo by Andy Thompson.

Bitterns basically have simple requirements; tall, wet vegetation full of food. In the UK, this means reedbeds and fish. As the reedbed tour continues, this week we looked at fish populations and started at Titchwell. The reserve had one ‘boomer’ and one successful Bittern nest this year. Electro-fishing produced fair amounts of Rudd and Eels, both key prey for Bitterns, and the reedbed restoration some 5 years back has produced a good reed edge.

The freshmarsh at Titchwell is currently undergoing a make-over. Reed around the margins has been blitzed and islands have been re-profiled and re-levelled. Expect good birds over the coming years! Today the nearly dry marsh had plenty of waders around the diggers, but thankfully nothing rare: 200+ Dunlin, 100+ Golden Plover, plenty of Ruff, 10+ Whimbrel and a Garganey.

Strumpshaw Fen was the second stop of the tour. Despite the dry spring, Strumpshaw has surpassed itself this year with up to 4 boomers and 3 nests (usually only 1-2 boomers, with no nesting). The electro-fishing provided the answer: 2 years after a major saline inundation and fish kill, the fish population has rocketed. We caught 6 species at a biomass of 20+kg/ha of fish less than 300g (twice the estimated threshold for Bittern breeding). Personally, I was pleased with a fish ‘tick’ – Ruffe. We flushed a Bittern from the ditch with the highest fish density, Water Rails squealed, and the young Bearded Tits and Marsh Harriers everywhere pointed to a good breeding season. An Otter performing in front of the hide (a regular event this year) underlined the resurgence in fish populations.

And finally, a look around the reedbed at Otmoor. The catch here was mainly Pike and Perch, indicating an early stage in the development of the fish community. It will be a year or two yet before Bitterns boom here.  Two Little Stints, a Ruff, Hobby and 14+ Red Kites in the general area added to the interest.

Below: the freshmarsh at Titchwell takes shape.

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