Saturday, 16 April 2011

A Budget announcement from Rainham

New hide at Rainham - just the most important bit left to do - habitat providing close views.

A worrying line of thinking in reserve management at the moment goes along the lines of: “this is a visitor-focused reserve so we don’t need to worry about the ecology” or similar. Complete tosh, of course. A reserve that delivers on its ecological potential will more effectively deliver on all it’s other functions.

Hence the continuing work to review the hydrology at Rainham Marshes. There is a need to deliver both the ecological and visitor objectives - wintering birds, breeding birds, passage birds. A variety of feeding and viewing opportunities around the reserve throughout the year – and water is the key. Yet this is a reserve in a dry part of the country with a limited resource of water. But the good news is that a ‘water budget’ shows that there should be enough water if it is used carefully and strategically. Wise use of the inputs (rainfall, surface flow), while minimising the outputs (evapo-transpiration, seepage) and ensuring stored water can be moved efficiently around the reserve is a key element in the management plan. Scrape design and location needs to take account of minimising water loss as well as providing close views.

Work undertaken on the Target pools last winter looks good – water is being retained longer and is now drying to create habitat for spring passage waders. Further work will look at re-provisioning for early autumn. With a new hide on Purfleet Scrape, careful thought is now being put into creating a much enhanced habitat that will deliver through the seasons. The existing scrapes require further ‘tinkering’ to get the best out of them.

A reserve warden I was speaking to recently complained that none of his visitors were interested in wildlife any more. Well sadly, the reason for this is that his reserve is managed like a country park – all access and signage, with no thought given to managing the wildlife. Isn’t there a clue in the name ‘nature reserve’? Visitor focused reserves need even more thought on the ecological side to ensure they are delivering on what people want to see – wildlife.

It was a great day to potter around Rainham prodding and poking at sluices, water and soils. A Greenshank landed in front of us, a Garganey flew by in a small party of Teal and Yellow Wagtails, Sand Martins, a Grasshopper Warbler and 10 Wheatears all added to the spring feel.

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