Lizzie Grayshon, Waders for Real Project Ecologist
2018 has been a very unusual year so far, from setting temporary fences in snow to extreme flooding in early April!
Such flooding on the water meadows is very uncommon for this time of year, we had almost a foot of water covering many of the meadows for two weeks at the beginning of April. This has made early spring a real challenge for everyone on the ground and a worrying time for all the farmers.
Many of our temporary electric fences have been affected and we have had to remove the charge from the bottom strands. The team have been working hard to keep the fences working, fence maintenance has been a big job so far this year.
However, there is some good news! The lapwing were not displaced off the water meadows and many were able to nest on small elevations on the meadows and survived the rising water levels. Lapwing have the ability to lay multiple clutches in a year, so any birds who lost nests due to the flooding will be able to lay another clutch of eggs again this year.
The nest here in the centre of the photo was found inside a temporary fence when the water levels were at their highest. Luckily it managed to survive the flooding and is predicted to hatch soon, hopefully the chicks will stay protected inside the electric fence.
One nest particularly caught my attention, this lapwing must have began building the nest as the water level was rising and kept building up the vegetation until it was safely above the water level. It will be interesting to see whether she lays the other eggs or if it has been abandoned. Unfortunately, it is now a rather obvious nest, and this may increase its chances of predation.
It has been interesting to see the water meadows after the flooding; the subtle undulations are highlighted in lush green as the flooding has left a layer of silt on low lying areas. The flooding has in some places created ideal chick foraging habitat so hopefully the chicks that hatch will have a high chance of survival.
This week we have seen our first brood of lapwing chicks on the water meadows. This is always pivotal moment in the field season as you know the work is really about to begin! It is really encouraging to see that even after the flooding this year, we are only a few days delayed in our first hatching date compared to the last three years.
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