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How to transform a farm into an incredible wildlife reserve

Juli 16 2019

#GoBirding #Bird watching

How to transform a farm into an incredible wildlife reserve

Reedbeds, grasslands, saltmarshes, pools and open water are the ingredients of a superlative birding landscape at the RSPB’s Frampton Marsh Reserve. Several decades ago, this burgeoning nature reserve was a mere potato field.

Now teeming with life, birds and birders flock to the reserve: the birds are attracted to the aforementioned diversity of habitat, whilst the birders appreciate the meticulously thought-out bird hides and overall reserve design that afford them up-close and personal views of compelling bird species like Ruff (Calidris pugnax), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) and Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) throughout the calendar year.


Ruff (Calidris pugnax) breeding plumage, Neil Smith

What guests here may take for granted is all the work that goes into facilitating these special moments, which is a matter of pride for Warden Toby Collett and the team. In the mid-2000s, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) had the opportunity to convert 200 ha (500 acres) of arable land back to nature to complement the existing salt marshes. This effectively hit the restart button and launched a new style of ‘dynamic’ wetland management that mimics natural processes of water flow. Throughout the year, the site staff rotates the dry and wet patches with one goal in mind: “Keep the water moving.”



Sea bank, John Badley

While in summer we try and keep levels as stable as possible for breeding birds, throughout the rest of the year we are either trying to expose mud for shorebirds/waders to feed on or to inundate dry or vegetated areas, often at the same time,” says Collett of the team’s efforts. “This means instead of having a bird boom and bust, we just keep booming by bringing other areas up to speed just as one is falling. Each year, we push the reserve a little more to learn more and eke out all of that potential.”

According to Collett, what sets Frampton Marsh apart is the dual focus on habitat to attract species in combination with ensuring that the reserve delivers for its visitors. Viewpoints and hides have been carefully considered so that people can truly enjoy the birds and not just spot them from afar.


Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) flock in flight, Neil Smith

“As an ecologist I love to see a mixed flock of shorebirds feeding in channels we have put in to bring them closer to visitors,” says Collett. “But as a Warden, I simply love seeing people enjoying the reserve.”


For more information about the RSPB Frampton Marsh, you may refer to this article: Where I go birding: Toby Collett and the RSPB Frampton Marsh Reserve


Toby Collett is an ecologist & warden at the RSPB Frampton Marsh in addition to being a lifetime birder and naturalist. He enjoys nothing more than facilitating the enjoyment of birds for others



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