Who’s ready for a conservation update?

08 Oct 2018

Our conservation team and volunteers have been very busy this year, and as nature starts winding down for winter, it’s time for us to take things up yet another notch.

This spring was a good year for breeding waders. Lapwing, oystercatcher and redshank all raised successful broods, and we had common sandpiper, ringed plover and little ringed plover chicks on-site. We manage Brockholes’ wetland habitats specifically for some of these target species, so it’s great to see all our hard work paying off.

Now the breeding season is over, we can carry out some much-needed conservation work around Meadow Lake and Number 1 Pit to ensure the birds feel just as at home next summer, and return to breed again.

See starlings, brown hares and bitterns at Brockholes nature reserve during winterWe have already started felling trees near the lake edge, close to the Guild Wheel. This is to reduce the increasingly imposing presence of the trees which are maturing close to the wader’s breeding area. These birds require open habitats and won’t tolerate encroaching trees. The trees themselves were planted as a visual screen by the quarry company before we bought the site. They are all the same species, all the same age, and all at the same spacing – this doesn’t make for a good wildlife woodland, so the losses are minimal. We’re retaining all the shrubby species along the guild wheel itself so the visual impact should be minimal, although for a year or two the lake edge will look a little bare from the Backless and Motorway hides.

Once the trees have been removed our lovely longhorn cattle will lightly graze the area, keeping the water’s edge clear.

While overgrazing can prove devastating for wildlife and plants, managed grazing by cattle can actually help the landscape to recover. Our cows keep the surrounding vegetation cropped at the optimum level for our waders while also giving plants more opportunity to thrive, rather than being choked out by the grass. And where there is a stunning range of wildflowers there is a fantastic array of invertebrates which, in turn, pollinate the reserve and provide food for birds.

Our volunteers have also made a start on hacking out willow scrub on Number 1 Pit Island (ensuring this valuable wader habitat doesn’t get overgrown). Most waders like to have easy access to water and open views, with Lapwing requiring vegetation that’s less than 5cm high so any predators can be spotted early.

And that isn’t all. Elsewhere at Brockholes our fantastic volunteers have been planting new reeds. They are filling out the north west side of Meadow Lake, surrounding the young plants with timber frames and wire mesh to keep out cheeky geese and coots that might be tempted to nibble on them. They have also revamped the bird feeding station along the Guild Wheel. It is already attracting more birds and will be an important refuelling post as food gets harder to find during winter. We can’t wait to see what turns up!

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