Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sailing Lake Work-party


Today the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve held their annual work party on the islands in the sailing lake. 20 hardy volunteers turned out on a cold, unpromising morning, which is a good turn-out on any day. It was really pleasing to see a few new people coming along. Some of our regulars were involved in the monthly waterbird count on the other lakes.

Tea break
At the same time, Sailing Club members had a big clean-up party and cleared some vegetation from the shore. The sailors do this to make sure they have as much wind as possible for sailing, but we do it to make the islands suitable for ground-nesting gulls, terns and waders. The islands on the Sailing Lake provide the main site for nesting terns and black headed gulls on our stretch of the river.

Last year's high rainfall had turned both islands into chest-high jungles and then the autumn rains raised the water levels to the point where clearing vegetation from around the waterline was impossible. We will need to go back.

Time to go.
I was surprised to see evidence of a visit by rabbits on the bigger island, and the volunteers came across quite a few voles and some mole-hills.  Some of these creatures can swim quite well, but I suspect the rabbits crossed on the ice. Foxes quite often do this.

The crown of the bigger island held about a dozen blackbirds and a couple of song thrushes but we also stirred up a wren, some dunnocks, a robin and two wintering chiff-chaffs. After working on the island all morning, Ray Matthews put up a snipe that had sat tight through all the din and smoke.

A few snowflakes fell early on, but by 11 am we were treated to glorious sunshine that lasted through the rest of the day. We expect snow on Monday though.

Chiff chaff