Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been busy creating new habitats for wading birds.
Populations of lapwing and curlew in the UK, along with many other wading bird species have dropped dramatically over the last 50 years due to a reduction in suitable breeding and feeding sites.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s conservation team has been busy creating new habitat at their Bickley Hall Farm headquarters with the aim of making parts of the farm more attractive for the birds.
An impressive piece of machinery was drafted in to complete the task, as an RSPB-owned rotary ditching machine made its way up from Oxfordshire to create the ‘scrapes’.
These are essentially shallow, sinuous channels in fields.
Over the course of three days the specialist-ditching machine was used to create nearly a kilometre of meandering three-metre wide scrapes.
“The design of the scrapes, is critical to the wildlife they will support,” explained Ben Gregory, area manager south, from the expert conservation team at Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
He added: “With their flowing design and gentle sloping edges, we’re hoping they’ll provide the perfect feeding habitat for wading birds and our quest to increase the number of breeding waders such as lapwing, curlew and redshank at Bickley Hall Farm will be one step closer.”
The trust currently manages 50 acres of low-lying, wet grassland at the farm, which is grazed by cattle during spring and summer.
Back in 2016, they designed a scheme of works to enhance the wetland habitat to make it more wildlife-friendly.
The work included creating 2,700m² of new linear scrapes and installing a series of adjustable sluices on some their ditches to control water levels.
“The idea is to retain water in the fields throughout winter and into spring,” said Ben.
“Recent studies have shown that creating wet features such as these scrapes in agricultural fields is highly beneficial for aquatic wildlife such as water beetles and flies.
“These provide a valuable food source for wading birds such as lapwing and snipe and farmland birds such as tree sparrow – all of which are regularly seen at Bickley Hall Farm.”
The work has been funded through the Natural England Countryside Stewardship scheme.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been acting as a voice for wildlife in the region for more than 50 years.
Working across Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Stockport, Warrington, Tameside, Trafford and Wirral, the charity manages 40 nature reserves with habitats ranging from grasslands and wet meadows to reedbeds, coastal dunes and woodland.