The work party have been hard at work on the lake this week. They had a bit of a grey and cloudy start today but the weather seems to have brightened up this afternoon.
There are around fifteen small islands on the reserve which are mostly viewable from the Visitor Centre, but you can see them close up from the Hide which makes for good bird-spotting. The islands used to make up one large island, however extra channels have been put in over the years to create small shelving islands which need reshaping every so often. And that’s what the work party have been doing today.
Clad in wellies they set out to work with spades and wheelbarrow in hand. The reason these islands need to be kept a certain shape is to encourage waders and other birds so the work party have planned several steps in order to maintain them.
Large stones and rocks have been placed around the smaller islands to stop the wave action - as the waves can become quite big due to westerly winds and the size of the lake. Due to the height of the waves the mud and clay is easily washed away, so we’re now using gravel as it is easier to maintain and is more resilient in harsher conditions. Sandwell uses locally sourced gravel to grade the edges of the islands.
Birds such as little ringed plovers, lapwings and oystercatchers love to wade in shallow waters so these graded edges are perfect for them and the pea gravel is also small and light enough for them to move around with their beaks when searching for food and scraping out hollows for nesting. The lapwing numbers are building up at the moment and we’re sure they’re looking forward to checking out the new improvements.
We also have several submerged islands (which the black-headed gulls are particularly fond of) as well as floating islands. The large floating island has now been moved to the other side of the boom to create an extension of the reed bed. It’s not quite visible from the Hide but you can easily see it from the bench on the path leading up to the Centre from Forge Mill.
The smaller floating islands are much more manageable and give the birds a place they can easily protect when nesting. Common terns in particular like to nest on these, and they all have ridge tiles on which make perfect hiding places for their babies.
Teasels also grow on the islands and these are managed by cutting the heads off before they go to seed. Last summer the work party did this, they had over 26 bin bags full! But there are still plenty of teasels elsewhere on the reserve for goldfinches. The work party will be going back onto the islands in the Autumn to strim the stalks away as then there will be less disturbance for our ground nesting birds which will have finished rearing their young by then.
New volunteer Matthew has been out today for his first practical conservation work and we decided to ask him what he thought: ‘A thoroughly enjoyable first day, friendly co-workers, fresh outdoors, working on the waters and laying fresh turf for new and returning wildlife was a very rewarding experience.’
If you think you might be interested in joining our Friday work parties and getting involved on the reserve, please email: Cathy.Taylor@rspb.org.uk