A project at the RSPB’s Frampton Marsh nature reserve, to encourage larger populations and more species of wading birds and wildfowl, is proving highly successful.
Now in its second year, and supported by specialist plant breeding and seed company Limagrain, the project involves: draining an area of the reserve in spring; planting a special water bird seed mixture, which flourishes during the summer; and then flooding the area in autumn.
This helps to provide a more diverse food supply and make the site more attractive to bird species.
And so far this winter, bird watchers at Frampton have been in for a few treats with a record number of more than 5,000 wigeon spotted and significant populations of lapwings and golden plover.
The rare grey phalarope has also been spotted at Frampton this month.
Frampton’s senior sites manager John Badley sees this project as a means of “re-setting the clock”.
The 170-hectare Frampton Marsh reserve has three seven-hectare scrapes – shallow basin-like lagoons – that are typically flooded and provide a mixture of islands and shallow water for wildlife.
As part of the project, one scrape a year is drained and dried out in spring and a four-hectare area is direct drilled with the Waterbird Scrape Mixture.
“This mixture includes seed shedding species, such as mustard and fodder radish, and cereals, including triticale and rye, as well as quinoa,” added Ian Misselbrook, of Lincolnshire firm Limagrain.
“It produces an abundance of seeds and nectar and once the scrape is flooded in the autumn, the rotting vegetation provides a food source for a diverse range of invertebrates that then become an attractive and plentiful food source for over-wintering wildfowl and waders, as well as migrant bird species passing through during spring and summer.
“The process re-establishes terrestrial plant species and provides the conditions that occurred when the scrape was first flooded.”
The reserve, which attracts 45,000 visitors every year, has been awarded the RSPB’s ‘Golden Welly’ for the past three years for attracting and recording the largest number of different species of wading birds.
“We recorded 35 different species of waders in 2015 and we’re adding to this all the time,” said Mr Badley.
“Many of these birds, including seven species of duck and wintering waders, such as black-tailed godwits, redshank, lapwings and golden plover, have been seen on the newly-flooded scrapes.
“This demonstrates the benefit of this improved habitat.”
Limagrain is donating supplies of a special Waterbird Scrape Mixture for this on-going project.
It is also supplying wild bird feeding mixtures for the RSPB’s Lincolnshire reserves at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore to benefit declining farmland birds, such as corn buntings, tree sparrows and yellowhammers.