Over the Christmas and New Year period we experienced a moderate flood on the reserve. The reserve acts as a flood reservoir, protecting local villages from the sheer volume of water which enters the great Ouse. The flooding caused some sections of the reserve to be closed, with access to the hide requiring chest waders.
Approach to the hide
Moore Lake with islands completely submerged
Although the flooding was detrimental to reserve access, it does have ecological benefits. The breeding wader islands at Moore Lake have been completely underwater for at least two weeks and this will hopefully knock back and suppress the vegetation which had already started to grow. Ferry lagoon has also benefitted from increased water levels. The lowest areas on Ferry mere have gone completely underwater, which will benefit flood plain plants such as mudwort and grass-poly, whilst also providing areas for feeding waders such as Lapwing as the water levels draw down towards the spring. Moreover, the numbers of wigeon on the reserve have soared and peaked at around 3000, whilst we have been holding increased numbers of lapwing, with this resulting in the local peregrine putting on some fine shows of aerial acrobatics.
Ferry mere partially flooded
Fortunately the water levels across the site have been falling rapidly and all trails are now open. Wellies are definitely recommended as the paths are very muddy in places.However, don’t let that stop you popping down to see what is about, there is always plenty to see at the lakes and recent sightings have included Slavonian grebe, marsh harrier and bittern.
We have been beavering away on the reserve recently and have opened up a new viewpoint. The new viewpoint can be found on the North West of Elney Lake and adds an extra element of interest to one of our most wooded trails.
We felled the lake side willows and then our team of hard working and enthusiastic volunteers created a dead hedge to really finish it off.
So why not wrap up warm and take a stroll down to Fen Drayton Lakes to see this new view in all its glory.
We have recently been removing trees from the shores of the grassland on Ferry lagoon. This work is part of the ongoing improvements being made for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl. Waders, such as lapwing and redshank require open areas of wet grassland in which to nest and raise their chicks, whilst wildfowl such as wigeon utilise these same areas in winter. The felling of the large willows around Ferry lagoon opens up this area and goes some way to making this area more suitable for these species.
Tree felling - Ferry lagoon
We have also been felling some of the trees directly into the lakes. This fairly recent management technique has many benefits for wildlife, whilst also opening up views across the lakes. Many of the trees are not cut away from the stump which allows the branches to produce leaves and roots. This adds some heterogeneity to the underwater structure, which acts as great refuge for fish. Moreover, egrets, herons and cormorants take full advantage of this, patiently stalking their prey from these vantage points, whilst coot will use these areas to nest. A further advantage of this work is protection of the banks from wave damage. The extra light which can now penetrate these areas will hopefully see some emergent vegetation take hold, which helps protect the bank and benefit grebes and coots among other species.
Extra viewpoints - Drayton lagoon
Over at the holywell grasslands we have been using an excavator to have a bit of a dig and scrape to see what the substrate is like across the field, in order to plan further work aimed at benefiting aculeate hymenoptera. It quickly became apparent that one area in particular contained a base of sand and gravel which had been covered with a thin layer of top soil. This area has now been scraped back to bare sand and will hopefully benefit a large range of invertebrates and add some diversity to our early successional grassland.
Holywell early successional grassland scrape
The wildlife spectacle at the lakes has had a fishy theme of late, with over 50 little egrets, at least three great white egrets and over 100 cormorants. These birds are taking advantage of the plentiful supply of fish in Moore Lake and Ferry lagoon and are a real delight to see, whether they are stalking the shallows or gathering in the lake edge willows.
Elney Lake is the best place on the reserve to spot another member of the heron family, the Bittern. The best way to see one is too scan above the reeds and hope to pick one up in flight. Other species seen over Elney this week (30th October) include bearded tits, marsh harrier, snipe and barn owl.
Great white egret and little egret
As the weather turns colder we should expect to see an increase in wildfowl on the reserve including tufted duck and goldeneye. More winter visitors should begin to arrive soon including short-eared owls and starlings. There is always plenty to see at the lakes, so why not wrap up warm and head on down.