Breeding wader numbers on the rise

13 Jul 2018

A lot of conservation work goes on at Brockholes behind the scenes. Staff and volunteers spend their days clearing scrub, coppicing, planting wildflowers and assessing the site for ways we can improve the reserve for the wildlife; helping nature flourish. Nowhere is this hard work more evident than the pools where our waders have been raising their young. Helen Earnshaw, our Volunteer Ranger, has some very exciting news that is the perfect example of conservation in action.

A young moorhen on swimming across the lake at Brockholes

Photo Credit: Ged Gill

For those of you who visited the site during winter, you will have regularly seen teams of conservation volunteers working tirelessly on Number One Pit Island to tackle the scrub in all weathers. As explained in an earlier blog post, the aim was to improve the habitat of the island for the breeding waders.

The island had become overrun with scrub species such as willow and alder, which was providing perfect cover for predators such as fox and other species. As a result of the predation of eggs and chicks, breeding wader numbers on the reserve had fallen sharply.

The breeding season is upon us and it comes just a handful of months after the first stage of scrub work on the island has been completed. It is fair to say that it was unclear just how quickly we would see the impact of the team’s hard work.

A lapwing chick standing on the edge of a pool at Brockholes

Photo Credit: Ged Gill

As it so happens, we didn’t have to wait very long. There are still many weeks of the breeding season to go but we have already seen 10 lapwing chicks, 10 oystercatcher chicks, 10 redshank chicks, two common sandpiper chicks and three ringer plover chicks. And with the breeding season still in full swing (some species are a little behind because of the impact of the Beast from the East) we may well see more chicks scurrying around the island in the coming weeks.

A huge improvement in wader numbers has not been the only thing to get excited about this summer, as there have also been three common tern chicks on the tern raft in from of the Lookout hide, which is a first for Brockholes Nature Reserve.

As well as young waders to spot, the site has also welcomed coot, moorhen, mallard and Canada goose chicks in good numbers.

Volunteers clearing scrub on Number One Pit at Brockholes

Photo Credit: Helen Earnshaw

It has not all been about an improvement in breeding wader numbers as there has also been a boom in floral biodiversity on Number One Pit Island and Meadow Lake Island – which had scrub removed the year before – with oxeye daisy, ragged robin and yellow flag iris providing a beautiful sea of colour. Meadow Lake Island in particular has provided an eye-catching spectacle on the drive into the reserve.

As the breeding season ends, volunteer groups will be heading back onto Number One Pit Island to continue the battle against the encroaching scrub and, fingers crossed, we will see the number of wader chicks increase year on year.

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