April marked the start of this years breeding wader surveys on farms across North Kent. The survey has now been extended to 12 farms stretching from the Hoo Peninsula, across the Isle of Sheppey to Conyer near Faversham. Throughout the next few months we will walk all the sites twice, concentrating on areas with potential for birds such as lapwings, redshank, oystercatchers and yellow wagtails and follow up with a survey conducted by vehicle in June in order to look for chicks. A further survey may be carried out in July. The survey follows on from advisory sessions carried out during the autumn and spring to discuss how to get the best out of each site. Advisory sessions concentrate on getting the grazing and water management right and tackling predation.
This work is part of a long term collaboration between Natural England, The RSPB, Carol J Donaldson Associates and the farmers but, after one season of advisory work we are beginning to see some results. Overall the land is in better condition for breeding waders and, although there is still lots of room for improvement then we have been delighted by the good will and effort which some farmers have gone to improve things.
The cold weather which began the spring will not have done early breeding birds any favours but we are hopeful that numbers of fledged chicks will be up on last years results.
Dawn starts and long walks dominated this month but we did take time out to work with the Bredhurst Woods Action Group to install barriers to prevent illegal trespass off the byway which runs through the woods. It was a welcome change to spend time in this beautiful bluebell woodland after the exposure of the marshes and the baked potatoes for lunch were very welcome.