Now in its second year, and supported by specialist plant breeding and seed company Limagrain, that has its head office at Rothwell, north Lincolnshire, the project involves draining an area of the reserve in spring, planting a special waterbird seed mixture that flourishes over summer then flooding the area in autumn. This helps to provide a more diverse food supply and make the site more attractive to bird species.
And so far this winter, bird watchers at Frampton have been in for a few treats with a record number of more than 5000 Wigeon ducks recorded and big populations of Lapwings and Golden Plover. The rare Grey Phalarope has been spotted at Frampton this month too.
Frampton’s senior sites manager John Badley sees this project as a means of ‘re-setting the clock’. The 170ha Frampton Marsh reserve has three 7ha scrapes – shallow basin-like lagoons – that are typically flooded and provide a mixture of islands and shallow water for wildlife. As part of the project one scrape a year is drained and dried out in spring and a 4ha area is direct drilled with the Waterbird Scrape Mixture.
“This mixture includes seed shedding species such as mustard, fodder radish and cereals including triticale and rye as well as quinoa,” adds Limagrain’s Ian Misselbrook.
“It produces an abundance of seeds and nectar and once the scrape is flooded in the autumn, the rotting vegetation provides a food source for a diverse range of invertebrates that then become an attractive and plentiful food source for over-wintering wildfowl and waders as well as migrants passing through during spring and summer.
“The process re-establishes terrestrial plant species and provides the conditions that occurred when the scrape was first flooded.”
The reserve, that attracts 45,000 visitors a year, has been awarded the RSPB’s ‘Golden Welly’ for the past three years for attracting and recording the largest number of different species of wading birds.
“We recorded 35 different species of waders in 2015 and we’re adding to this all the time,” says Mr Badley. “Many of these birds, including seven species of duck as well as wintering waders such as Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Lapwings and Golden Plover, have been seen on the newly flooded scrapes. This demonstrates the benefit of this improved habitat.”
Limagrain is donating supplies of a special Waterbird Scrape Mixture for this on-going project. It is also supplying wild bird feeding mixtures for the RSPB’s Lincolnshire reserves at Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore to benefit declining farmland birds such as corn buntings, tree sparrows and yellowhammers.