Rotary ditcher update - Water and wildlife has started moving in

The features dug by the rotary ditcher in the Nene Valley last summer have been filling up with water and attracting wildlife. Helena gives us an update.

Last August, as part of the Farming for the Future project, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, we created about seven kilometres of new ditches and scrapes across six different sites in the Nene Valley. These shallow features were designed to increase wetland habitat in the valley, providing welcome habitat for overwintering and, ideally, breeding waders through the winter and spring months. We’d hope to see bird species such as lapwing, redshank and snipe using these new muddy patches in floodplain fields. More information on the creation of this habitat is in my earlier blog post.

Dug during the drought conditions last summer, it seemed unthinkable that these features could ever hold water, but as the wet weather descended over the UK and serious flooding affected various parts of the country, our ditches soon filled up.

Sheep sitting alongside a ditch filled with water

Photo by Tim Hankins

We received photos from landowners, happy to see the ditches working, even evidently appreciated by livestock!

We are now making return trips to each of our sites with a drone to take aerial images and videos of the ditches in action and brimming with water. It has been wonderful so far to return and see wetland birds using these sites, with sightings of lapwings and snipe along with species of duck and gull using these features.

Looking ahead, to monitor the success of these features, we have arranged for local bird experts to conduct monthly surveys from autumn through to the spring which will paint a good picture of the development of the features and enable us to ensure they are managed appropriately in order to encourage waders.

Two of the sites we did this work on are on our own reserves; Summer Leys and Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows. Do pay a visit and let us know what you can see!