We’ve been having a wader spectacular down at Burton Mere Wetlands this year. Record numbers of Lapwing, Redshank and Avocet within our predator-exclusion fence, yet again.
We have 2 key management objectives on site here: Wintering Wildfowl and Breeding Waders. Obviously, at this time of year the waders take precedent.
Historically, lapwing and redshank have always bred on the reserve, but struggled due to high predation levels from fox and badger. In 2011, we installed a large “predator-exclusion” fence to enclose a 45ha area which is currently fox and badger free… hopefully! Exclusion of predators, and some vital habitat management (such as rush cutting and maintaining good water levels) has seen a great increase in productivity, and numbers of breeding pairs increase year on year as you can see from the graph:
2017 saw 92 pairs of Lapwing within the fence, so naturally this year we were aiming for the ton… and we did it! 103 pairs of lapwing, at least 35 pairs of redshank and, though there may still be a few to go down on nests, 52 nesting avocet. Add in the single pair of oystercatcher on the scrape, and that’s over 191 pairs of breeding waders within a 45ha area! That density of breeding waders is absolutely incredible, and must be one of the highest densities anywhere in the country.
There are a handful of pairs outside of the fenced area too, which bumps our number on the whole of Burton Mere Wetlands to over 200 pairs. Fantsatic! It’s so great to have worked so hard though the winter, and see the results.
The worrying part has only just begun though… Once the eggs hatch, the chicks become vulnerable to avian predation especially from birds of prey (kestrels and buzzards) – though of course, anything else will have a go at picking them off. Our ultimate aim is to get as many chicks to fledging as possible. Lapwing especially, have declined hugely in the wider countryside, so the more we can output, the more likely we are to start slowing/reversing the decline.
An interesting feature, that has emerged over the past couple of years is that Avocets and Gulls have spread out, and rather than nesting in a tight colony on the scrape (as you would expect from these species). They are nesting in good number on the wet grassland behind the scrape. This area is actually just in Wales! So we’ve got some Welsh Avocets, black headed Gulls and even a pair of Welsh Mediterranean Gulls (though these are literally 10yards into Wales!) A couple of Avocets have actually nested on the ploughed area that we sow a Barley crop on too.