September is the end of the survey season, time to consolidate all those records and prepare for the autumn ahead.
September has been our busiest month so far. It began by meeting Natural England to talk over plans for farming advisory visits, which we are set to undertake over the next few months. We had spent the spring counting lapwings and redshanks at farms across the North Kent Marshes. In April the fields were full of plummeting and wheeling birds but as spring turned to summer and the grass grew, the numbers of waders fell and the birds failed to breed.
Breeding waders need two things, water and short grass, get this equation right and numbers will grow. Following years of catastrophic decline for lapwings and redshanks we need to turn things around and, on the grazing marshes of North Kent, we have a real chance to do that. Over the next few months we will be visiting landowners, walking the fields and coming up with management plans to ensure that, next year, these birds arrive, and stay and successfully breed.
As the month moved on we turned out attention to creating work sheets for the River Stour Internal Drainage Board. These sheets are based on the extensive survey of watercourses we undertook in the summer and tell Rhino Plant, the boards main contractor, how we would like them to cut the ditches. It also highlights where there are opportunities to enhance the channels for wildlife and where there are potential problems in the form of invasive species and high nitrate and phosphate pollution.
This year marks the end of six years of survey work and we were commissioned by Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership to undertake a review of the River Stour Internal Drainage Board Biodiversity Action Plan. Things have changed significantly since the creation of the original BAP in 2010. Changes in Government policy have swept away national targets for important species which makes commitment to local plans all the more necessary.
Thankfully the Stour IDB is committed to improving biodiversity across the drainage district and we have created a programme of work to be considered by the board which will ensure the continuing health of drainage channels, which form a lifeline for wildlife across the region.
If this work didn’t keep us busy enough we also abseiled into a drainage channel on behalf of Medway Council to search for water vole signs and deconstructed a potential reptile hibernaculum to ensure no common lizards were injured when flood prevention work begins on the channel this autumn. It should be noted that translocating wildlife is work we only undertake if the scheme will have overall benefit for wildlife or improve habitat quality.
With so much intensive work taking place we needed to take time out of the office and reconnect with wildlife. Andrew Wilkinson of Kent Wildlife Trust kindly arranged an evening tour of Ham Fen reserve in search of beavers. We enjoyed a beautiful evening on the reserve but sadly the beavers failed to make an appearance. Still it gives us an excuse to return next year.