Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Wader survey

Had the pleasure of a proper survey today, on mitigation land up in Somerset - a site I've checked annually for the last three or four years. The site is primarily catering for breeding waders (Lapwing in particular) and water voles. The only drawback is that as I have to be there early in the morning, I had to get up at 4 a.m. to reach the site with time enough for a coffee before the survey...

Coffee over, I pottered off into the dawn with a chilly northeast breeze to keep me company and started the search. As in the last couple of years, just one confirmed pair of Lapwing were present, with a single bird also lurking - this was occasionally beaten up by the established pair. A pair of Oystercatcher look to have moved in - they appeared late in the season last year and at least attempted to breed; perhaps this year they will succeed!

There was a steady passage of Swallows drifting eastwards with a handful of Sand Martins sprinkled amongst them, but few other migrants were evident: a single Reed Warbler, just one Whimbrel and a couple of Yellow Wagtails, whilst a late Golden Plover was also a pleasant surprise.

Most interesting, however, was significant evidence of Otter using the reprofiled ditches, with some superb trails of footprints and a couple of spraints. Hopefully these can drive out any mink that may occur, providing a little more security for the local water voles. Next survey in a couple of weeks, with any luck.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) - the culprit for...

...this! Swan carnage on one bank of a reprofiled ditch. Still 40-odd hanging around, so not a great problem in the grand scheme of things.

Moody (indeed, gloomy. Blame the weather) view along a reprofiled ditch. The original ditch was about 1.5m wide and steep-sided; to get this shape you get in a chap on a contraption which slices off one bank to a gentle gradient, spraying the cut soil liberally across the field behind it. This produces a profile somewhat like a square-root symbol (√), reversed in this case. The whole idea is to create a bank with continual access to water and invertebrates as water levels fluctuate through the year. Particularly popular with Little Egrets and Otters on this site...

No comments: