It’s been a super busy couple of months with so many exciting projects getting off the starting blocks.
Despite a disappointing wader breeding season, which saw chicks either disappearing down the throats of black headed gulls or vanishing under a sea of rapidly growing grass, there were some notable highlights.
Over on the Hoo Peninsula, Stoke Marshes achieved their best results ever with some super determined lapwing pairs producing chicks on fields they have previously shown little interest in. This was good timing as the farm will be one of the lucky recipients of grant money under the Green Recovery Fund.
The RSPB were successful in their bid to fund work across North Kent and South Essex. On Stoke Marshes there are plans to store water, reprofile rills and improve water management across the site to ensure conditions are right during those crucial spring months.
The funding is richly deserved by the farmers, who have worked endlessly to achieve a result even though they are geographically isolated from other wader sites. It feels that the lapwing have given us their blessing by choosing this year to successfully breed in fields where work will take place.
The Green Recovery Fund will also be used on other farms across North Kent to remove rush from historical rills and install solar pumps which will help keep water levels high without a cost to the planet.
Last month I was assisted in my work by Bella Horwood. Bella is a student at Hadlow College and was a delight to work with. We certainly had a busy week, undertaking breeding wader and ditch surveys, doing desk studies and spending a sunny afternoon spotting orchids and butterflies with naturalist, Trevor Hatton. Following on from her week, Bella has been helping to create maps of breeding wader results for farmers.
With the wader season drawing to a close, my attention turned to working for the Upper and Lower Medway Internal Drainage Board. I undertook survey work at Capel Fleet on the Isle of Sheppey in order to provide an independent assessment on the risks and benefits of de-silting the fleet. Capel Fleet is a channel of fluctuating width which suffered from drought in 2020. It flows through reed bed, fen and wet grassland habitats and is designated as part of The Swale Ramsar and SPA site along with SSSI status.
Consultation took places with local farmers, the RSPB, EA and IDB in order to get a clear understanding of all views before reaching a decision. A report has now been submitted to the Upper and Lower Medway IDB for consideration before further discussions with Natural England take place.
Exciting plans for the marshes around Conyer are also under way. The IDB have tasked me with consulting on water control structures on the marshes which ties in nicely with plans for restoring wetland habitat in this area. A day out on the marshes with local farmer Mr Dixon proved invaluable as we spent the day uncovering sluices and discussing the differing needs of farmers in the area.
Blackbird Farms which managed Blackett’s and Luddenham marshes are pushing ahead with plans to create a restored wetland landscape of scrapes and rills which hopefully will reverse the fortunes of waders in this area. More talks will take place with other farmers next month with the hope that we can create something truely amazing for wildlife on the land next year.