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Lapwing numbers at record high on RSPB Malltraeth Marsh reserve!

Last modified: 19 February 2015

Lapwing - adult female in breeding habitat pasture

Image: Andy Hay

Numbers of breeding lapwings are going from strength to strength on RSPB Malltraeth Marsh nature reserve on Anglesey in north Wales.

Breeding numbers of lapwings, also known as the ‘peewit’ due to its distinctive call, have increased to a record high, thanks in part to a grant from the Biodiversity Action Fund of WREN which started in July 2011.

Fast-forward four years, and the breeding lapwing numbers are at an all time high on the reserve, with 24 pairs fledging 49 chicks in 2014, compared to eight pairs rearing no chicks at all in 2009.

Ian Hawkins is RSPB Cymru Malltraeth Marsh reserve manager. He says: 'We’ve done a lot of work over the past four years for this bird and these results demonstrate that we are doing the right habitat management and that its possible to bring back wildlife from the brink.'

Funding from WREN - a not for profit business that awards grants to projects from funds donated by FCC Environment through the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) – has allowed RSPB Cymru to successfully create and restore wetlands habitats for lapwing and other wildlife.

'The marshy ground is often too soft for ordinary tractors. The Softrak allows us to work in these areas whatever the weather'

Much of the ground work has been done through the purchase of a Softrak all-terrain vehicle, which carried out essential work on the 273 hectares of reedbeds, marshland, wet grassland and pools on the reserve that was not possible before.

Ian adds: '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 even in summer. The Softrak allows us to work in these areas whatever the weather - without getting machinery bogged down and without damaging the ground.'

The Softrak is also used to manage lapwing areas on the nearby RSPB Valley Wetlands and Morfa Dinlle reserves. Between them, the three reserves supported a record 72 pairs of lapwing in 2014, which is estimated to be nearly 15 per cent of the population remaining in Wales.

Additional work like anti-fox fences and solar-panelled electric fencing has been constructed around the areas where the lapwing nest, to provide additional protection for the chicks. This work has been possible with money from Tesco customers through the Welsh Governments carrier bag levy.

Ian says: 'But what we didn’t expect was that the work we have done for lapwings has benefited a number of rare plants that like to colonise muddy water margins. These are an important part of the Malltraeth Marsh (Cors Ddyga) Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) classification. 

'The most important is pillwort, a grass-like fern named after its pill-sized spore-cases. Anglesey is one of three UK strongholds for pillwort.'

Recent work for lapwings has allowed the pillwort to spread across the reserve to the extent that Malltraeth now has one of the largest populations in the UK. The Softrak vehicle helps to prevent larger plants taking over these margins and shading out the pillwort.

Ben Walker, 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 visit our We Love Wales blog www.rspb.org.uk/community

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