BIRD DIARY - FERRY MEADOWS

sand martinIn my note in June I rhapsodised about the influx of summer migrants. This year the stormy weather caused great disruption and it is widely thought that numbers of many species were down as a consequence. The full picture won’t be apparent until after the breeding season. One of the first arrivals, in late March onwards, is the Sand Martin and there are nesting boxes at  Ferry Meadows on Lynch Lake where you can watch the Martins catching insects on the wing and taking them to their young. 

The visitor centre has live footage from a camera box. Ferry Meadows now has just over 80 nesting chambers, over double the number of last year, and the occupancy rate has been about 75 %. Indeed it was 100% in the original boxes. Recent ringing of birds by Nene Park Trust staff has found that, despite everything, it appears to have been a good year with broods averaging around 4 to 5 young, even a couple of broods with 6. 116 chicks were ringed on 10 July on top of 70 in June. And as Martins will have 2 or 3 broods there are still more to come. So fingers crossed. Interestingly, information gleaned from the ringing over recent years shows that there is an interchange of breeding birds between Ferry Meadows, Rutland Water and Little Downham near Ely. 

Ferry meadowsIn spite of its intensive use for recreation Ferry Meadows remains an excellent site for birds with around 220 species having been recorded there. But things could be better and The Trust is about to embark on a project mainly supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve Heron and Goldie Meadows which have long been identified as being in need of restoration. Over the years the cross-ditches in Heron Meadow – between Overton Lake and the Nene - have become heavily silted due to rainfall, flooding and impeded drainage. As a consequence the meadows become waterlogged in winter but the ditches dry out in Spring. By reinstating the ditches and creating pools and scrapes water will remain for longer on the meadows and attract increased numbers of birds, notably breeding waders such as Redshank and Lapwing in Spring and early summer; passage waders in Winter which migrate using the Nene Flyway; and wintering waders and ducks. In w/b 23 July the RSPB rotary ditcher will arrive to create areas of shallow water and scrapes, pools and foot drains and all work will be finished by the autumn. Two hides will provide views of the work, initially, and then, hopefully, of target species and other birds using the restored meadows.   

Finally, a footnote to my article last month on Cuckoos and the British Trust for Ornithology’s tracking project. The BTO has 14 birds this year with satellite tags and in mid- July it reported that all of them had left Britain and several were already in Africa. Naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham sponsored a bird and called it Bowie after his favourite musician.  It left the New Forest on 12 June and, having crossed France and the Sahara, is now in Chad, having flown 3,040 miles, that is an average of 86 miles a day so far. The final destination is the Congo rainforest. As I pointed out last month, many Cuckoos spend barely 2 months here of their remarkable lives.   

KEITH LIEVESLEY