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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - COMMUNITY -

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

PHOTO: RIC MELLIS

I spy: Dis­cover the spe­cial wet­land wildlife at Col­lege Lake

PHOTO: MAR­GARET HOL­LAND

Fam­ily val­ues: BBOWT is work­ing to help birds such as lap­wing to breed suc­cess­fully

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