Over the next few months, we will be installing sluices that allow us to let water from the River Crouch into our Grass Farm Lagoon. Works will be close to the sea wall but the footpath will remain open throughout.
This work will also allow us to fill Acresfleet lagoons east of Grass Farm, the adjacent creek network and the perimeter ditch that goes around Marsh Flats, our grazing marsh.
Once the works have finished and everything tidied, we will open a new trail allowing visitors to get closer to the lagoons and their wildlife and take a circular walk around Marsh Flats.
The new Jubilee Marsh is seeing its first breeding season and we have over 40 avocets using the lagoons here as well as in other areas across the island. Elsewhere we also have a pair of little ringed plovers and although only here for a short while our first spoonbill.
The other exciting new visitors to the island are our cows. The herd will grow to about 25 in number over the coming weeks. These are currently grazing in the western half of the grazing marsh and look very content.
In June contractors arrive to finish the sluices for the lagoon and adjacent saltpan, the creek network and adjacent lagoons, and the perimeter ditch.
The contractors will be working on the seaward side of the seawall and on the landward side. This means there will be some work across the public footpath. The footpath however will remain open throughout the period.
We are now letting some saline water onto our large saline lagoon, which has made a huge difference to the look and feel of it. The continuing tidal influx will bring in food and there are increasing numbers of wintering waders and waterfowl on here and on Jubilee Marsh. Lapwings, golden plover, dunlin, redshank, shelduck, teal and wigeon are all in large numbers with smaller numbers of grey plover seen. There are few Brent geese around but this is in line with the low numbers of juveniles this year across England.
Hunting over the top of our wetlands we now have three hen harriers and at least two short eared owls along with the regular kestrels.
The sediments on Jubilee Marsh are increasing all the time and the mud is now starting to have a proper ‘mudflat look’ about it. With the sediment comes the food and we have seen fish (probably gobies) and a crab within the water. Whilst the egrets are pottering around the edges of the channels, a kingfisher has made its regular perch on top of the tidal flaps in order to hunt for fish.
With this cold snap the increased food available must be welcome! A good sign for the coming year...
(c) Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)