RSPB rotary ditcher
The RSPB rotary ditcher is a specialist machine widely used for the creation and restoration of wetland habitats.
- In 2002 the RSPB highlighted a need for a machine which could help in restoring some of the wet features which were traditionally found in grazing marshes. After a lot of searching, the first rotary ditcher was purchased from the USA with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The original machine was replaced through a successful WREN grant application in 2013.
- The ditcher is most efficient at creating 'foot drains' - shallow channels designed to hold surface water. These areas provide habitat for breeding waders, such as lapwing and redshank, and their chicks - which feed on invertebrates in wet mud at the edge of pools and scrapes. Soil type, topography and water level management are all important in designing foot drains.
- Research carried out by the RSPB has shown fields with high foot drain densities attract significantly higher densities of nesting lapwings.
- Waders prefer to nest closer to the edges of footdrains as they provide suitable food for chicks as soon as they hatch.
- Lapwing chicks are more likely to feed nearer foot drains, on wet mud created by receding water levels.
- It is also widely accepted that having isolated small areas of water in fields, significantly increases the number of wintering waterfowl in an area.
- Reference: Eglington, S.M., Gill J.A., Bolton M., Smart M.A., Sutherland W.J., Watkinson A.R. (2007) Restoration of wet features for breeding waders on lowland grassland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2007