Yesterday saw the conclusion of one of the more laborious tasks that the reserves offer up in the sinister size and shape of Japanese knotweed removal and treatment. Anne must take all the credit as she has carried out the bulk of the undertaking as well as masterminding the current – and highly successful -means of control.
A Japanese knotweed forest the likes of which now no longer exist on Radipole and Lodmoor.
In 2009 Anne researched alternative treatments for knotweed control and settled upon a technique trialled by the University of Exeter involving the cutting of the stems upon flowering and filling the hollow stems with the pesticide Glyphosate, having firstly removed from organic status the areas affected.
Areas treated over the previous two summers have knocked back JKW cover by as much as 95% and allowed the once out shaded and out competed native herbage to flourish in its absence.
Sad as it is to say, the conclusion of the Japweed crop of 2011 may be Anne’s final major intervention on the Weymouth Wetlands as she is moving to the east and joining the RSPB Dorset Heathland Project as a consequence of a countywide staffing restructure. And I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Anne for the three years of dedication and skillful application that she has brought to the role of Estate Worker – and I am sure that she also will be missed greatly beyond these office walls. Our loss is the Heathland Projects considerable gain.
Transforming this predator-perch strewn, scrubby, unproductive reedbed into a beautiful and bountiful swathe of wet grassland over two industrious winters will be another of Anne's enduring legacies.
While carrying out running repairs on the locked gate bridge, Anne and I made a rather peculiar and somewhat macabre discovery. As the below photograph reveals a 3-spined stickleback was impaled upon the handrail by its largest dorsal spine... but how did it come to meet this curious demise?
Our minds collectively boggled until eventually we postulated that the only way we could envisage it becoming embedded was via kingfisher. Kingfishers stun or kill their prey by thwacking their heads on hard objects, (like, say, the handrail on the locked gate bridge) before swallowing them head first so that fins and spines fold back and do not impede progress down the gullet. We can only assume that in the process of thwacking the spine penetrated the wood of the handrail leaving the poor wee fish high and dry.
I'll bet he already reckoned it wasn't his day in the moments leading up to this bizarre crucifixition.
In summer the males, with their vivid scarlet bellies, build nests and woo passing females with an erratic, zigzagging ‘dance’. If he is successful the female will lay her eggs within the nest which the male then fervently guards and gently fans with his tail fin to oxygenate. In stark contrast to most fish species, (which will eat their offspring as soon as look at them) the male stickleback is a feisty fellow which prides himself on his near pathological paternal care which wills him to defend his nest and harry potential predators - often many 10’s of times his size.
Like some of its more celebrated cousins (such as salmon, silver eels and bull sharks to name but three) the humble stickleback has adapted to survive in freshwater, saltwater and the brackishness in between. Rather than scales on their flanks sticklebacks have bony plates numbering just 4 or 5 in freshwater fish and as many as 30 on their saline brethren.
Some or most of you will already know, but at the end of each month, we will be choosing a photo of the month. The lucky winner will have their picture displayed on this very blog for the masses to admire. There are some good pictures already uploaded for September but there is room for a lot more! So there’s ten days to go before we judge our first photo of the month so get those pictures uploaded soon.
Whilst I am blogging I should probably give you a bit of a wildlife update. Two Little Stints have been feeding on the mud outside the visitor centre since the weekend along with a dunlin and a few Black tailed Godwits. The first Snipe have started appearing at the visitor centre. Their numbers should start increasing rapidly over the next month or so. Nick was out doing some maintenance yesterday and discovered very fresh Otter spraint on the bridge at the start of the board walk at the hide. Perhaps the weirdest sighting was of a Kingfisher which appeared to go into the old nest hole from the summer. Not sure why it would do this, perhaps it was an inquisitive youngster or an adult making sure it was still there? Migrations still in full swing with the first Meadow Pipits and Siskins flying overhead on the weekend. Plus duck numbers appear to be on the rise, especially teal and shoveler. So this is a pretty good time to have a look around the reserve. Who knows what could turn up!
At Radipole Lake it seems we have too much wildlife for the size of reserve we manage! This evening I had to take some things down to the visitor centre and the reserve was brimming with life. Hundreds of gulls and ducks out on the water, hirundines feeding overhead, a flock of Black tailed Godwits feeding in the mud. With all this going on another species resorted to using the car park!
Yellow Wagtails were dropping into the car park all evening. The real reason of course is to have a bath in the puddles before roosting and not because we have too much wildlife on the nature reserve! I wonder if it’s actually possible to have too much wildlife?
This autumn has been an incredible year for Yellow Wagtail at the Weymouth Wetlands. Every night at Radipole for the last three weeks we have had well over 100 Yellow Wagtails roosting. What’s more amazing is that fact the most evenings new birds will be roosting and not the ones from the previous night! Most I have seen at one time has been nearly 300 but just 10 miles down the coast at Abbotsbury, almost 1000 were seen roosting last week! This species has been in steep decline in the UK so hopefully this is a sign that they are starting to recover slightly but they have a long way to go.
Next weekend (the 17th and 18th Sept), we’ll be holding our Kingfisher weekend. Autumn is normally the best time to see kingfishers at the Weymouth Wetlands but this year many visitors were treated to great views of our breeding pair. However, autumn is still a great time with many young Kingfishers dispersing from breeding sites to find territories of their own. This time last year up to 4 or maybe 5 Kingfishers were using the reserve and this years no exception. Most days at least one is seen with some visitors getting great views. Regardless of their bright colours they can prove tricky to see. This is why we will have our expert team of volunteers and staff on the lookout between 10am and 3pm. They will be stationed at strategic points around Radipole Lake armed with a radio ready to call in the latest news to everyone else including visitors. This way you can head straight to the action and be in with your best chance of seeing one of Britain’s most iconic and recognisable bird species.
Last year nearly 80% of visitor saw at least one Kingfisher so your chances are pretty good so pop down to Radipole Lake anytime between 10am and 3pm next weekend.
If you want more information give the visitor centre a ring on 01305 778313 or drop a message into the forum.