Birds

You will probably be familiar with some of the common waterfowl that visit local ponds, such as swans, ducks and moorhens.

But there are many other birds, such as lapwing, redshank and snipe that also like ponds and wetlands in semi-natural areas. Wetland grassland is a great habitat for migratory wading birds, but there is little good wetland grassland left in the UK.

Bittern 4 Slimbridge 21 Jan 07sm

Case Study 1: In 1997 the RSPB bought 106 hectares (263 acres) of farmland in Otmoor, Oxfordshire, to turn it back into a mixture of wet grassland and reedbed. Over 150 ponds were dug and old agricultural drainage pipes removed to keep the land wet.

These small, shallow ponds are good for birds because there are lots of very shallow edges which allow the birds to feed. The water levels in the ponds also rise and fall seasonally, which exposes bare mud at the edge of the ponds where the chicks can grow safely. You can now see many types of birds on Otmoor, such as the little egret, tufted duck and ruff.

Water Rail Farmoor 5 Jan 08sm

Water Rail copyright Stephen Burch

Case Study 2: Nosterfield Nature Reserve in North Yorkshire was originally
worked out for sand and gravel from the early 1950s to the
mid 1990s. The naturally regenerating open water bodies then became important for various wading and wetland bird species, but the site was subsequently threatened by planning applications for landill. The Lower Ure Conservation Trust (LUCT) was formed in 1997 to protect the site for nature conservation, improve its conservation value and provide opportunity for public appreciation.

The primary objective of wetland habitat creation at Nosterfield was to provide breeding habitat for redshank and shoveler, as well as foraging areas for wintering and migrating birds, especially waders and waterfowl.

To achieve these objectives, the site management plan now includes open areas of lake, pond and scrape habitat, wet grassland and grazing marsh. These habitats have been incredibly successful in not just attracting wetland birds, but a huge variety of wetland plants and invertebrates as well. There is also a strong breeding population of common toad (UK BAP species) at the site.