The RSPB has been working with Wynstream Primary School and The Topsham Primary School for the past 2 terms running after school clubs focussed around birds. Children from both schools have thoroughly enjoy participating in these clubs and demonstrate a keen interest in learning more about birds, wildlife and their local environment.
Wynstream Primary School have also been helping the RSPB think about how to improve the area outside the bird hide at Bowling Green Marsh in Topsham since they visited before Christmas. One of their ideas was to provide a bird table, which they then proceeded to make and yesterday with the help of Topsham children they chose where to put it. This is a great example of community action and children making a positive difference to their local area for wildlife.
The Topsham Godwit Club have been helping find out more about the migration patterns of the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits as part of the International Schools Godwit Project. These beautiful wading birds breed in Iceland during the summer months and then travel to the warmer climates of northern Europe for the winter. Due to the abundance of food, the Exe Estuary is a very important wintering site for the godwits, with hundreds of birds visiting each year. The Godwit club have been looking for godwits with coloured rings on their legs to report back to scientists so the birds can be tracked. They have also plotted the journeys on maps, linked up with other schools in Iceland and Ireland and made posters to raise awareness in the local community.
Last month the children from both schools met up, to swap stories and share a visit to the bird hide at Bowling Green Marsh. We met at Topsham school where the children explained what they had been up to and shared their experiences. Then later in the afternoon we all walked along the Goat Walk down to the hide to look for godwits. Also outside the hide we spent time finding somewhere for the new bird table Wynstream had made.
The day was a great success with the children talking animatedly about it all the way home!
All the grazing animals are now on the reserve areas and there are many sets of cows and calves that always raise a smile as the calves barely seem big enough to be out in the fields, their ear tags often like large earrings, bigger than the ears themselves. Working with graziers at this time of year is an important part of the reserve management as we rely on the farming practises to provide the management we need. For the first time we have got cows grazing in Goosemoor, which is our saltmarsh reversion project as we look to manage the vegetation which has started to get rather tall and thick and certainly not ideal for the wetland birds we are trying to encourage to the site. The Galloways known for their love to stand in water seem to have settled in there and are enjoying their time by the seaside and already having an impact.
What a spring it has been, everything seems so far ahead, we already have 6 broods of lapwing chicks running round, enjoying the spring sunshine. Dragonflies are hawking the ditches and butterflies are dancing in the dappled light – all just reminders of how amazing the UK spring can be! The dawn chorus is now at full strength with birds fighting to be heard, from the explosive Cettis warbler to the chatter of the reed and sedge warblers. A lonely grasshopper warbler shouts from the canal bank at Exminster and swallows chatter and the swifts scream, it feels like a sensory over load down at the marshes at the moment. What a year it seems to be for blackcaps too, their delicate warble can be heard from in amongst the hawthorn blossom. If you have the patience peer in amongst the leaves to get a glimpse of the males beautiful slate grey back and black cap – but don’t be surprised if you get a peak at the female as her cap is brown!
Technology has brought us further towards understanding the dynamics of the lapwing population at Powderham Marsh as although we now have 6 broods of lapwing chicks, we have also witnessed the local fox taking a clutch of eggs. We just hope now that with a further 5 nests to hatch that he hasn’t got a taste for lapwing eggs and doesn’t devastate the remaining colony, but time will tell. Although disappointing at least we are starting to get an understanding and reasons for why our breeding waders may be suffering a decline.
The consequence of the amazing weather for a wetland reserve is that we are now struggling to keep the water levels up to maintain soft muddy margins for our feeding wader chicks and wet ditches for the broods of duck that will start to emerge. Without rainfall the levels have started to drop and we are operating our pump and pinching water from our storage lagoon to keep them topped up – but surely there must be rain on the horizon soon!