Wetlands are wonderful for birds, insects and us
Kate Titford from the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust finds out why we should be celebrating our wetlands
TODAY (Thursday) is World Wetlands Day and, for us in south Bucks, a chance to celebrate and recognise the importance of the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, reedbeds and floodplain meadows in our area for us and for wildlife.
Wetlands are vital for all life on earth. Supplying fresh water, food, building materials and storing rainwater are just some of their important roles.
According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands over half the world’s wetlands have been destroyed, leading to problems as diverse as flooding and drought, pollution and species loss. The 2016 State of Nature Report revealed that 13% of freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction in Great Britain. Many wetlands have been drained to reclaim land for agriculture.
Thankfully BBOWT is working hard to protect wetlands in our three counties. These watery habitats are essential for mammals such as water voles and otters, rare birds including bitterns and curlews, and many other species from amphibians to insects.
College Lake nature reserve near Tring is a prime example of nature returning when given the right conditions. The reserve was once an old chalk quarry that was allowed to flood when the extraction finished and has been reclaimed by nature. Now it’s one of the best sites in Bucks for wetland wildlife.
Staff and volunteers work hard to keep the wetlands in good condition for wildlife. Every autumn they cut back the vegetation on the islands in order to stop them becoming too overgrown or dominated by woody species, such as willow and alder.
Teams of volunteers put in many days’ hard work so that the islands provide an attractive breeding ground for several special species of bird, including lapwing, redshank, little ringed plover, oystercatcher and common tern.
These birds all nested on the College Lake islands in 2016 but sadly none were successful in hatching any young.
Predators, such as foxes, accessing the islands were one of the reasons that these nests failed, so to reduce this impact we have dug a much deeper, wider channel separating the islands from the edge of the marsh. This will deter predators and hopefully give our breeding birds a better chance of success.
We’ve also been creating more areas for our dragonflies and damselflies. We cleared a large section from one of our ditches which had become overgrown with reeds, and cleared trees and scrub from around the ditch. This created sunnier, open areas that the dragons and damsels love.
We clear a different section each year so that the ditches always have some of these open areas as this will benefit the most species. We’ve been working on our ponds too, clearing two of them to benefit wildlife.
Take a look at the new sightings board in the hide by the visitor centre to see what’s been spotted recently. Many of the birds that spend the winter are still here and recently there have been reports of signs of otters at the reserve.
Celebrate our wetlands with a visit to one of our nature reserves and enjoy the precious wildlife that they support. Each month BBOWT offers guided walks around College Lake. Come along and learn more about the site, the birds and animals found there and the Trust’s work protecting local wildlife.
Find out more about BBOWT nature reserves and the guided walks at College Lake at bbowt. org.uk
I spy: Discover the special wetland wildlife at College Lake
Family values: BBOWT is working to help birds such as lapwing to breed successfully