Simply wondered if anything was being planned to develop the scrape to the once amazing spectacle that it was for so many years of magical times at the reserve?
To re-establish the invertebrate life that sustained the huge amounts of waders, terns, and wonderful migrants that made this now sterile area of the reserve such a joyous attraction to birders and true nature lovers.
The core of the RSPB.
Would be so interested to hear the views of other life long visitors and members.
Thanks for your question.
As you quite rightly point out, the Scrape has been a superb place to watch wildlife since it was first created almost 50 years ago. At the time, this was a pioneering piece of habitat creation by the legendary Bert Axell. The idea has now been copied around the world.
For those who are not familiar with it, the Scrape is a series of shallow pools studded with islands. It is an artificial habitat, designed to replicate the saline (salt-water) pools that are often found along low-lying coastal areas. As an artificial habitat, it requires a huge amount of management work to create the optimum conditions for different species at different times of year.
This management work aims to replicate a complex series of natural processes that change the composition of natural coastal lagoons. It may help to know how these natural processes operate, to explain how and why we amange the Scrape as we do.
A natural coastal logoon periodically floods with saltwater. This kills of many of the plants and invertebrates, adding nutrients to the system from their decomposition. Over the next few years the pools gradually revegetate, and more invertebrates colonise, and the pools often dry out until the next flood event.
We aim to copy these processes by controlling water levels and salinities carefully. Water levels are high in winter to benefit the thousands of duck sand other wildfowl that visit the reserve. By spring we have lower water levels with distinct islands fo rbirds to nest on. Water levels gradully fall during the summer to ideally leave soft mud for autumn waders (this has proved difficult in some recent drought years where there has been insufficient water to bring onto the Scrape). In addition, part of the Scrape are fresh (West) and other part are salty (South), with East Scrape being somewhere intermediate.
In recent years, we have carried out an innovative fallowing project to replicate these processes. A section of the Scrape is deliberately dried out each year, allowing vegetation to grow. This is then rotovated back into the soil in late summer to return nutrients to the system, and the area is re-flooded. In addition, we periodically turn islands over or create new islands.
The success of this work can be shown by some of the recent wildlife highlights. Avocets have bred succesfully for the last two years (14 chicks fledged in 2011 is above the average for recent years), showing that there is plenty of food available. The escaped flaminog spent many months at Misnmere in the summer - again, she would not have survived without a good supply of invertebrates. We had an excellent variety of passage waders during the autumn, including four pectoral sandpipers together at one point and several other individuals. these were possibly the only American waders in Suffolk this year, so the lack of rarities is not a Minsmere phenomena. This was an excellent year for passage greenshanks, spotted redshanks and ruffs, and the spring saw unprecedented numbers of bar-tailed godwits using the Scrape.
Both arctic and roseate terns bred at Minsmere for the first time in recent years, and 500 pairs of Sandwich terns settled among the gull colony a couple of years ago. Minsmere continues to attract an excellent variety of scarce wildfowl, including regular smew and green-winged teals. This has been the best year on record for species variety at Minsmere, so we must be doing something right.
We have also managed various parts of the Scrape to improve the visitor spectacle. We removed the bank in front of the East Hide to allow waders to approach closer. We've dug a pool in front of North Hide. We've used the konik ponies to help keep vegetation short in winter and create some tussocking favoured by birds such as snipe.
So, to answer your original question, we have already been carrying out considerable amangement work to benefit wildlife, and visitors, with great success, and we will continue to explore new ideas, because birds are core to our work, and we could not let the Scrape become a sterile place. That would be undoing 50 years of success. After 50 years, the Scrape needs some careful nuturing and fine-tuning. And that's exactly what we are doing.
What an informative and inspiring reply, keep up the good work, we trust you.
I appreciate your reply and hope for a personally more fruitful year of viewing the scrape. The heart and soul of the reserve.