What lies beneath Upton Warren...

Tuesday 29th September 2015

The Flashes (c) Andy HarrisThe Flashes (c) Andy Harris

Worcestershire’s premier birdwatching nature reserve is about to look a lot different as work to assess the site’s hydrology gets underway.

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, owner of The Flashes pools at Upton Warren, has started to slowly reduce the amount of water onsite in order to reveal what lies beneath. The work is essential if the future of the rare inland saltmarsh, and the wildlife that relies on it, is to be secured.

Saltmarsh - rare inland habitat

Sea spurrey (c) Wendy CarterAndy Harris, conservation officer responsible for the reserve, explained “Most of us are used to seeing saltmarsh habitat in coastal areas so finding it inland is a really rare occurrence. We’re lucky to have it at Upton Warren because of the industrial heritage of salt-mining in and around the Droitwich area.

“Back in the 1950s, there were three distinct small pools surrounded by this rare saltmarsh habitat. Overtime, the pools have joined and the saltmarsh has significantly reduced in size.

“The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the saltmarsh and the wildlife this kind of habitat supports so it’s vital that we understand what’s happening beneath the surface of the water in order to help us manage the site for the future.”

Monitoring

The saltmarsh habitat at Upton Warren supports a range of plants and insects that, in turn, support a wide range of birds. In 2003, the first inland breeding avocets were recorded at Upton Warren.

Avocets (c) Bob TunstallAvocets were once extinct as breeding birds in the UK but began to breed again on the east coast in the 1940s. The shallow saline pools and saltmarsh habitat at Upton Warren provided perfect breeding habitat for them as their numbers increased around the coast.

Volunteers have been involved in recording the wildlife at Upton Warren for decades. Recent surveys of insects have revealed that rare flies normally associated with Africa and the Mediterranean occur on the site.

Andy continued “We’ve been monitoring the birdlife at Upton Warren for many years but recently we’ve been looking more closely at the invertebrate life – the flies and other small creatures that attract the birds here.

“The saltmarsh plays an absolutely vital role in supporting all the wildlife here and it’s essential that we understand what’s going on below the water in order to ensure the survival of this rare habitat and the life that it supports.

Monitoring water levels (c) Wendy Carter“We artificially control water levels throughout the year to optimise the habitat needed by birds through the seasons. During this winter, however, we’ll be gradually reducing the level of the water at the Flashes much more than normal.

“We need to know what’s happening with the ground and localised springs so that we can better understand how to manage the nature reserve for the long-term.”

The Trust began to reduce the levels on 15th September and will continue to lower them throughout the next few months. They expect to begin raising the levels in late winter – in time for breeding birds to start arriving as spring comes round.

 

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