Managing the Wash Reserves for Wildlife - Working in a Wader Wonderland. Toby Collett.
The Louth Area Group of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust started it's Autumn season of talks at the Conoco-Phillips Room on the 9th of October with a talk by Toby Collett, warden at the RSPB Reserve at Frampton.
Before the talk started we had a little round-up of what's been going on and what people have been seeing. Wildflower seed collection at Red Hill, the departure of blackbirds and other seasonal bird movements and the ratio of a redshank's leg to bill length were discussed. Toby demonstrated how to call back a buzzard by whistling. Now we know.
Frampton Marsh comprises a mature saltmarsh managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and, the main subject of Toby's talk, a freshwater wetland managed by the RSPB that is now one of the country's best sites for seeing waders with 34 species recorded. Since 2006 the RSPB has been converting some arable land into a combination of reed-beds, wet grassland and scrapes with islands. The early years of the site's development are recorded in the Bird Guides by the Paul French, the warden in 2010.
Toby stressed the experimental approach to dynamic management that is possible in this new reserve. Managing the various inter-related habitats requires regular changes, for example ensuring by cutting that the reed beds offer various stages of maturity, with dense thickets for bearded tit nesting and edges from which bittern can hunt for roach and eels.
Carefully controlling water levels, changing them with the season, is key to the dynamic management. Allowing vegetation to build up and then flooding to kill it off provides nutrients to the mud for the all-important bloodworms, the larvae of the non-biting midges, the Chironomids. These are found in great abundance and provide the bulk of the food for wading birds. Maximising the abundance of Chironomids and ensuring their availability for the birds by changing the water levels seems to have been a great success, evidenced by the flocks of thousands of birds over-wintering here.
For Toby, a vital aspect of the RSPB's management of the reserve is to plan for a future of climate change, providing the diverse habitats that meet the needs of what may be changing populations of birds in years to come.