Sunday, 28 July 2013

Work starts again at Hilgay wetland creation site

Nick Carter, Conservation Officer (Fens)
The badger gate and fencing, photo by NIck Carter   
 The recent spell of dry weather has meant that Fen Group has been able to resume work on the site. Two of the major tasks left to do are finishing the installation the abstraction system from the River Wissey and to install the pump chamber and pump next to the storage lagoon. An outlying badger sett has held up the former but as this is no longer being used, digging the trench from the river to the storage lagoon can be finished off at the end of July. We have erected a badger gate and fencing to ensure no badgers are present in the sett when we started to dig the abstraction trench nearby. The nesting sand martins, close to where the hole for the pump chamber will be dug, have finished breeding so work can proceed there too.

The predated sand martin burrow, photo Nick Carter
With no ability to abstract water onto the site yet, levels have dropped in the ditches and patches of water in the storage lagoon have shrunk. Breeding lapwing and little ringed plover, as a consequence, have not had a very successful year. No young of the latter have been seen, although several nests were located, and only a few singletons of the former have been observed. The sand martins had more success with about 30 juveniles ringed on one visit but a predator (probably badger) located the burrows and dug out several of the nests. The birds did not hang around for a second brood. It is hoped that with better control of water levels next year the burrows should be less accessible.

Reeds growing in the storage lagoon, photo by Nick Carter
Plans are well under way for reed planting to be carried out from mid-August onwards. Adam Pimble, from NWT’s Hickling Team, will be supervising the planting. We are aiming to plant 40,000 plugs over one hectare of the site. The reed rhizomes planted in April have grown well and will help to protect the storage lagoon banks once it starts to be filled. Reed planting will then move to Hickling to do another 40,000 plugs at a wetland creation site there. The plugs are grown by British Wildlfower Plants, based locally at North Burlingham.

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