Friday, 13 January 2012

Hard work

A couple of days working down in the south-west looking at ongoing projects was a bit of a strain. At Radipole Lake, the reedbed is in the best condition it’s been in for years after a considerable amount of restoration work. The chance of a booming Bittern this coming spring is as high as it has ever been. It would have been rude of course not to pop in to the visitor centre, where a quick check through the assembled mass of 300+ Med Gulls revealed 2 Ring-billed Gulls. Onward then to Exeter for an afternoon meeting at Goosemoor, a small area of land next to Bowling Green Marsh at Topsham and the site of the first Regulated Tidal Exchange in the UK. Regulated Tidal Exchange is a technique for creating and managing intertidal habitats. It uses regulated quantities of tidal water to manage the inundation regime and is often employed behind maintained sea defences. The technique has been particularly well developed in the eastern USA where impounded coastal wetlands, often in close proximity to built development, have benefited from the re-introduction of tidal flushing. The project at Goosemoor, implemented in 2004, has created a range of saline and brackish habitats (0.75 ha saline lagoon, 0.75 ha of mudflat and 4.25 ha of saltmarsh) for the benefit of breeding and wintering waterbirds. It would have been rude not to pop in to Bowling Green Marsh, just in time for the Red-breasted Goose to fly over our heads and land in front of us. At nearby Exminster Marshes, we looked at the successful use of wild bird cover crops (more of this at a later date), and were forced to endure some extremely close views of the long-staying Glossy Ibis as it wandered around us.

The following dawn saw us on Ham Wall, Somerset as a rough half-million Starlings left their roost and cruised over in one sky-wide, minute-long, wing-whirring flock. Two Great White Egrets joined a feeding frenzy of 20+ Little Egrets, half a dozen Grey Herons and a Bittern. Five Bewick’s Swans bugled nearby and an Otter spooked a flock of Tufted Duck. A quick crash around the reedbed to look at the conversion of reed into compost and briquettes was briefly interrupted by a flyover Water Pipit. And finally a quick look at the Somerset Levels was enlivened by the bunch of re-introduced Cranes with their hang-along wild mate (right-hand end, below). Work is a real chore.

Photo by John Crispin

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