New machinery is saving wildlife
5 July 2012
There is a new beast roaming on Anglesey! The new Softrak multi-purpose, all terrain vehicle is helping the RSPB carry out essential work that was not possible before.
The RSPB’s Malltraeth reserve covers 273 ha of existing and developing reedbeds, marshes, wet grassland and small pools. It forms part of the Malltraeth Marsh (Cors Ddyga) Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is particularly important for its ditch fauna and flora, and a range of breeding wetland birds.
This new machine will enable the RSPB to support the reserve’s lapwing colony to breed and flourish, to attract bitterns back to Wales as a breeding bird, and to help sustain a wide variety of wetland plants.
Reserve manager Ian Hawkins said: “Malltraeth Marsh is subject to occasional floods and, being low-lying and relatively flat, it is slow to drain. The marshy ground is often too soft for ordinary farm tractors, so it was often a matter of luck whether conditions were dry enough for us to get onto the fields and control rush or to get into the reedbeds.”
He adds: “As a result of not being able to routinely manage the land, the fields have gradually deteriorated and rush has become too dominant within the sward. The Softrak will allow us to work in these areas whatever the weather - without getting machinery bogged down and without damaging the ground.”
After just two months the team have spent hundreds of hours in the vehicle, cutting rush and preparing 80 ha of fields for nesting lapwing. Anti-fox fences have been constructed around lapwing nesting colonies, using the Softrak to ferry fence materials across soft ground. It has even been used as a mobile hide so that lapwing nests can be monitored and the chicks followed when they leave the nest.
Ian says: “In the reedbeds, we are able to cut reeds and clear the litter that builds up at the bottom of the reedbed and eventually leads to the reedbed drying out. Cutting the reeds allows fish to continue entering into the reed edges where bitterns can feed on them, and at the same time it also helps us provide safe wet reedbed for bitterns to nest in.”
He adds: “In the wader fields we can now reduce the amount of tall rush and provide a short open landscape which lapwing prefer for nesting. We can also cut the vegetation in the shallow wet areas where they like to feed. In fen areas and at pond edges, we can reduce the dominance of rush so that scarcer wetland plants such as pillwort can get enough light and space to grow.”
The Softrak is available both within the RSPB and to external users, stretching its benefits well beyond Malltraeth. RSPB Cymru’s North Wales Wetlands team will use it on wetlands across north-west Wales and it is available for farmers who are involved in the Hiraethog lapwing project who, up until now, have had to hire this kind of equipment.
The purchase of the £79k Softrak was made possible through a £154,348 grant from the Biodiversity Action Fund of WREN, a not for profit business that awards grants to projects from funds donated by FCC Environment.
Elaine Pestle, BAF Grant Manager at WREN, added: “Through the Biodiversity Action Fund we’re supporting projects that will enhance, restore and revive some of the UK’s most precious habitats. This project and especially the purchase of the Softrak, means the RSPB is now better able to manage and restore valuable wetland habitats on Anglesey and across other parts of North Wales. Their work will have a really positive impact for many species of wildlife.”
For more information about this project please call Ian Hawkins on 01248 421 100.
WREN is a not for profit business that awards grants to community, conservation and heritage projects across the UK from funds donated by FCC Environment as part of a voluntary environmental tax credit scheme called the Landfill Communities Fund. Since 1998, WREN has granted over £150m to more than 6,000 projects which benefit communities within 10 miles of a FCC Environment landfill site. For more information please visit www.wren.org.uk
FCC Environment are the leading UK waste and resource management company and are part of a global group with a strong heritage in providing services for communities and business. Their vision is to be the environmental company of choice, delivering change for a sustainable future.
They employ 2,400 people and operate more than 200 facilities across England, Scotland and Wales.