Saturday, 1 October 2011

Magnam swirls take shape.

Heard of Bowers Marsh yet? No? Believe me, if you are a birder, you will do before long. I was back down in south Essex yesterday to look at the continuing development of this new RSPB nature reserve. This massive habitat re-creation project aims to create a range of dynamic, salty to fresh, wet to dry, Thames-side habitats. I have previously blogged about Bowers at an earlier stage of the work. Now the diggers have done most of their work and some areas have started to ‘settle down’. Compare the top picture here with the same view below. Avocets have already moved in and bred on the new ‘creek’.

The new 20 hectare scrape will also function as a reservoir for the grazing marsh habitats; brim full in winter but releasing water through the spring and summer to keep the marsh wet. Today the contactors carefully placed a ‘topping’ of sand and gravel on the islands constructed within the scrape, but how do you explain to dozer drivers how you want the mix spread? Well, I pondered, bit the top off my ice cream (it was a warm day), looked down, and said “We need to create intimate swirls of differing substrates, from sand to chocolate, sorry, I mean gravel”. And so the Magnam swirl island was conceived.

This week, the first tides surged onto the new saline lagoon. The lagoon will eventually support a mix of mud flats, saltmarsh and islands. Tides will flow on daily to controlled levels. Gulls seem to like the new habitat; Meds and Yellow-legs mingled amongst the hundreds of Herring and Lesser Black-backs.

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