I know it’s been a while since our last blog but with everything else going on and Easter etc we kept putting it off.
I suppose the best news lately is the sighting of the first Yellow Wagtails and Swallows on the reserve, great to see them back, summer must be around the corner.
On a more serious point the Environment Agency has very recently given us a temporary extension to our abstraction licence for Windmill Creek, this is great news for us but also means we are refuelling pumps and coping with breakdowns and burst pipes on a daily basis. As you are all aware the drought conditions has meant we have been unable to take any water from the creek since before last summer as the water level has been some 40cm lower than normal. So with the little splash of rain we have had over the last week and the water being pumped from the creek onto the eastern end of the reserve we should be able to maintain wet areas for the breeding waders. With a bit of careful management of the water we should be able to put some into the reservoir as well.
We have started the annual Lapwing nest monitoring survey, this is conducted twice a week and is very time consuming but will ensure we keep an eye out for any problems which may affect the overall productivity of our birds. When out doing the survey we have noticed an increase in Redshank nesting although the number of Lapwing nests is slightly down on last years figure taken at the same date but its early days so they may pick up and get down to the business of having young.
We should being getting some livestock on site at anytime now, our graziers are planning to start bring cattle back in small numbers so that we don’t over graze the grass which is just starting to recover now that the soil temperature has risen.
Visitors to Capel Fleet will have noticed the new resting point bench installed as part of Swale Borough Council’s circular walk around Leysdown, I hasten to add that we had no input into the design of the bench but the new surface to the viewing mound has smartened things up. A replacement information graphic board has just been delivered and will be installed in the next week or so.
We are both away for different parts of April and May and although not together regular visitors may not see too much of us around. Rest assured one of us will be on site doing our best to keep Elmley as good as we can.
Nick and Lyndsey your Assistant Wardens at Elmley.
The reserve team have been preparing for spring by finishing off the last of the reserve work and getting organised for the breeding season. We monitor the breeding lapwing very closely recording their productivity, as well as monitoring the predation levels. This has involved completing the modifications to the electric fence that surrounds the flood and the compartments towards Spitend and having everything in place for our volunteer team to commence monitoring as soon as we see the first Lapwing sitting on a nest. Monitoring usually starts in the last week of March but with the mild weather we have been experiencing the birds may try to catch us out, we are ready for them.
The last of the sheep left the reserve today (Friday) to go off to their home farm to lamb in the next week or so. It was sad to see them all go as it means for the time being we do not have any livestock on site. The grass on the reserve will get a well-deserved break before last years ewe lambs are put back out the graze. It will not be long before the cattle are back either, depending on the rate of grass growth we should see animals back within a month. The cattle and sheep are very important to maintain a good sward to allow us to attract the variety of birds to the reserve.
You will notice the flood in front of the hides has quite a high level of water on it although we would want it a little higher so that the slightly higher rills get some water. Unfortunately, we are running out of stored water and unless we get a significant rainfall we will not be pumping for very much longer. On the upside, so far March has surpassed the February total rainfall figure; let us hope the trend continues.
"Carol and Jim Allison would like to express our grateful thanks to all Gordon's friends and colleagues who have been such a great support to us during the last few weeks. We have been greatly encouraged by all the wonderful cards, letters, emails and comments on blogs, posts etc.
We have also been moved by the depth of feeling for Gordon which has been expresses by so many of his long standing friends. But we also had a smile at some of the comments about Gordon's unique style.
Gordon's dad and brothers, Stuart and David also appreciated greatly the chance to meet so many of his friends and colleagues at the Ferry Inn. The atmosphere was genuinely a celebration and just as if Gordon was there as guest of honour.
It was also good that the whole family had a chance to meet those who made the long journey up to Glasgow for the funeral.
Once again, thank you for all your support - it has been truly appreciated."
Compared to the last couple of week’s cold weather, this week has been glorious. We have had a good number of visitors out enjoying the sights and sounds of early spring. The most notable and watchable signs being the lapwing displaying with the males starting to hold their territory. These acrobatic birds can keep anyone captivated for hours with their rolling and tumbling display flight, and their distinctive calls.
Although we haven’t got the high numbers of past years, waders and wildfowl have started to increase, especially noticeable on the flood in front of the hides. As... I’m sure by now.... most people have heard; it has been a very dry season. We have not had the levels of water that allow us to pump and flood the reserve to create the shallow pools and rills most favoured by breeding waders. However, the small amount of water we have got stored in our reservoir we are using wisely.
Our course of action this year is to concentrate on two main areas. These being the main scrape in front of the hides and the second scrape towards Spitend to the East of the reserve. These have proven to be the most popular and successful areas on the reserve for the breeding waders and wildfowl in the past and so we are going to do our best to maintain these areas, particularly over the spring.
Notable highlights of the week for staff and visitors have been 2 rough legged buzzards over Kingshill farm and also watching a large group of roosting Knots being troubled by a Peregrine one evening on Wellmarsh pool.
The North Kent marshes team wants to thank everyone for their very kind wishes and words for Gordon, he is going to be greatly missed. All donations received will go towards a memorial at Northward Hill, a place Gordon worked prior to his arrival at Elmley and was very fond off.
for those who have not yet heard, we have some very upsetting news:
Rainham Marshes blog