It’s been an incredibly busy and productive autumn for the team at Ladywalk. The work undertaken has been extensive and ambitious and it’s exciting to see what positive results will come from all this hard work. We’d just like to share with you what’s been going on in some detail and explain some of the changes to the reserve and what we are hoping to achieve.
Firstly, all the work at B pools has been completed. The goals were to reduce vegetation on the island and further discourage predators to the area. So with that in mind, 3 inlets were created so that water could spill more easily over the island during winter. The theory is that this will do a better job of drowning the vegetation and leaving it barer in the spring for migrant and nesting waders.
That brings us to the second problem – foxes. Countless times this year the resident foxes have been noted on the causeway and island, especially on the spring all-dayer in May when a fox was seen to scour the whole area methodically for eggs and baby birds. Ground nesting birds just haven’t got a chance at the moment. So we’ve made an effort to widen and deepen the ditches around the island to discourage them but this needs to be coupled with some sort of predator-proof fence for full protection, which is being looked into.
Further work at B pools included exposing areas of natural, healthy mud for the wildfowl and waders whilst leaving the nutrient poor PFA areas as meadows and reed which will do nicely for Snipe and Lapwing. As usual some lovely corridors have been sliced through the reedbeds at B and also around the sluice in the main reedbed ready for an obliging Bittern to skulk around in.
Inlets on B pool causeway
Reed cutting at the sluice
Moving on then to the New Bay area where plenty has happened. One of the larger islands furthest north has been cleared and levelled which I can tell you wasn’t much fun but it should prove attractive to waders, ducks, gulls and terns and hopefully be left alone by the Cormorants as it’s furthest away from their roost site. The mainland closest to the island was also being overrun with large willows, which have now been coppiced.
If you’ve visited recently you will have definitely noticed the deep moat running all the way around the base of the hill at Riverwalk Hide. This is really going to help with letting lots more water into New Bay (which has been drying up more often lately) whilst also forming another line of defence against predators. Some huge clumps of nettles and Himalayan Balsam were beginning to form in the bay, so they’ve been ripped out, widening the bay in the process.
Serious coppicing on Main Pool
Moat running into New Bay
Whilst we were there, we thought we’d dig some test pools to see the state of the soil in that area. It’s an area of the reserve that was less affected by deposits of PFA and the test pools show the soil to be rich and silty with a solid, clay base – perfect. The pools have already hosted a Great White Egret, so it will be interesting to see what else finds the pools to it’s liking. Plus all that excavated soil has been put to good use to create a bund between the bay and the footpath to reduce disturbance.
Clay based pool excavations
View from Riverwalk Hide
Perhaps the most dramatic changes have occurred around Hide A and Rudd Pool. The view from Rudd Hide is so much better. Rudd Pool had been suffering, being very much enclosed and appearing to have limited value to birds and other wildlife. Plus any waterbirds flying north along the river valley encountered Rudd Pool first and were perhaps discouraged to cut across the reserve because of the extensive woodland there. With that in mind, the area has really been opened up, with large chunks of young woodland having been felled or layered to welcome birds in.
Improved view from Rudd Hide
Good mud at Rudd
As well as that, the causeway between Main and Rudd Pools has been flattened, creating some lovely, muddy edges and greatly improving visibility from Rudd Hide as well as creating a new angle for viewing the islands on Main Pool. There are plans to further widen Rudd Pool in the future but we look forward to seeing what visible impact all the work done so far has on the wildlife.
Panorama of the Rudd/Main Pool causeway
There is still plenty to be done though, mainly in front of the new Hide A. As you may know, the new hide has been positioned on a different angle, faced out more to Main and Rudd Pools so that views from the hide have more scope and interest. Excitingly, the plan is to connect the Keyhole Scrape with the expanding reedbed on the nearside of Main Pool by a series of ditches and channels (see diagram below). We can’t dig deep though as it is mainly PFA and poor, though it will be nice to join the areas. Hopefully the result will connect similar habitats, make more homes for Snipe and Bittern and form a barrier to the marsh and further discourage predators from disturbing ground-nesting birds.
Keyhole Scrape in the old days!
Proposed linking channels
So that is that. A very successful autumn, we look forward to what the winter brings. Hopefully plenty of Bitterns, owls and huge numbers of wildfowl. If you feel inspired to get involved and contribute to your reserve, please contact us through the blog or on twitter.