Friday, 3 January 2014

The Golden Wellies

The RSPB runs an internal competition The Golden Wellies to find the best passage wader site each year.  There are both league and knockout elements to the competition to test good wetland management throughout the year.  Monthly counts of waders are recorded; they have to be ‘feet down’ on a managed fresh/brackish scrape or flood (not tidal). This year the results of the Wellies for 2013 have ‘leaked’ and I can exclusively reveal that the winner of the best passage wader site in the RSPB last year was Frampton Marsh. Frampton, recording 32 species, just pipped Minsmere (31) to the title after the latter had led the competition for most of the season.  The highlights of Frampton’s year included Black-winged Stilts, Dotterel, Baird’s and Buff-breasted Sandpiper, as well as at least 4 Pectoral Sandpipers and up to 6 Temminck’s Stints.

Fairburn Ings finished in 3rd place in the Premier League, just beating local rivals Dearne Valley on Gull Difference (a measure of wader diversity each month). That these sites are just 2 species short of the top spot highlights the importance of well managed inland wader habitat.  Up and coming South Essex and old hand Lodmoor/Radipole were promoted from the Championship up into the Premier league this year, both with 27 species.   Snettisham and Exminster Marshes were promoted from League One.

In all, 43 species of wader were recorded during the year, with a peak monthly count across all sites of 100,353 waders being recorded in September.  Monthly peak counts included 14 Temminck’s Stints and 260 Whimbrel in May, 11,819 Dunlin in July, 476 Ruff, 206 Curlew Sandpipers and 67 Wood Sandpipers in August, and 13 Pec Sands in September.  I hear new scrapes are already being prepared for the start of the 2014 competition. 

The Premier League and Championship finished like this:

The Premier League                                                The Championship
1.   Frampton Marsh    32 species                             South Essex Marshes     27
2.   Minsmere                31                                         Radipole/Lodmoor         27
3.   Fairburn Ings          30                                         Belfast Lough                 26
4.   Dearne Valley        30                                          Saltholme                       26
5.   Dungeness              28                                         Arne                                26
6.   Titchwell                 28                                         Mid-Yare                        23
7.   Rainham  Marsh    28                                         Ham Wall                       23
8.   Ouse Washes          28                                         Havergate Island            23 
9.   Ouse Fen                 27                                         Leighton Moss                22
10. Old Hall Marsh      26                                          Pulborough Brooks        22
11. Burton Mere           26                                          Fen Drayton                   19 
12. Conwy                    24                                          Campfield Marsh          19
13. Loch of Strathbeg   22                                          The Reef                         17
14. Otmoor                    19

Pics: The Wellie, Frampton scrapes, Buff-breast (and Ruff) at Frampton (photo- Steve Keightley)