Saturday, 24 June 2017

Marsh breeding waders

Lade - cool, cloudy, w 4 drizzle - It was a return to more `normal` summer weather down here these past two days with a brisk westerly airflow suppressing moth numbers in the garden MV. Today was overcast throughout with a fine drizzle for much of the time, perfect then for a haircut. Me first, followed by Barney, with Pat delivering buzz-cuts all round.

                                Buzz-cut Barney

                                Oystercatcher with chick nearby

  Breeding waders down here on the Marsh have a tough time of it due mainly to a combination of human interference, predation and a lack of suitable habitat, so it was pleasing to note a few successes this past week.
  The more robust Oystercatcher is probably the most successful of the tribe nesting across the peninsula, mainly around the bird reserve, the ranges and local gravel pits where it nests on islands and open shingle. As this species directly feeds its chicks (rather than letting them get on with it like most waders) it can take advantage of man-made structures on which to nest, such as flat roofs or, as at our local caravan park, atop a static mobile home! This fairly recent behaviour has obvious  benefits, such as eliminating ground predators. This afternoon I also noted two pairs with well grown young on more traditional habitat at ARC pit.
  Much of the foreshore from Littlestone to Dungeness should support a few pairs of Ringed Plovers, but its far too disturbed nowadays and I couldn't find any nests this year between the Lade and Pilot section. Hopefully, a pair or two should be able to nest on the ranges, or the more undisturbed parts of the beach around the power station.
  On a brighter note, due to the drought providing islands on the bird reserve lakes, several pairs of Little Ringed Plovers have taken up residence this spring and juveniles were seen at one location today. They also nest at one or two other private gravel pits locally alongside Avocets, although few young reach the fledging stage due to predation from the likes of Fox, Badger and Mink. Redshanks are few in number too with no more than a handful of pairs locally and mostly on the ranges where there is less disturbance.
  But the breeding wader that has suffered most in recent times is the Lapwing, which now no longer  nests on the Romney Marsh farmland because of changing farming practises and land drainage. Today it is restricted to the wet fields around Dengemarsh with up to 20 pairs on the managed hayfields and adjacent marginal land on the bird reserve; although even here the fields aren't so wet due to water pumping restrictions, while fledgling success is low (corvids etc).
  A pretty gloomy picture then, and I cannot see too much change in the near future. It seems inconceivable to me that the shingle ridges hereabouts, surrounding Plovers cottage, a century ago would have played host to both Kentish Plover and Stone Curlew as well.
  Just imagine what that must`ve been like, and goodness only knows what it will be like in a hundred years hence...

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