by Kathy James

Dynamic Conwy

Wow! I was blown away by the presentation at Bangor Bird Group last evening. Julian Hughes, manager of the Conwy RSPB reserve was there to give us a talk on the reserve’s past, present and future.

The timing of this talk seems very apt as it is now twenty years since the opening of the Conwy tunnel and the reserve is, after all, only there because of this massive industrial project. Julian talked us through the making of the tunnel. The technique was ground-breaking when they sunk perfectly measured, pre-made tunnel sections with precision to create a passage under the water. In fact, there are only five or six tunnels of this type in the world today. The upshot of this feat of engineering was the destruction of an already designated area of SSSI (unbelievable!!) and the problem of what to do with an area of saltmarsh choked in sediment that had been dredged from the bottom of the estuary. Luckily, two gents involved in this planning process saw fit to contact the RSPB and thus RSPB Conwy was born!

It was pleasing to here that one year into opening, and so soon after a massive upheaval of the natural environment, there were Lapwings and Little Ringed Plover nesting.

The reserve has gone from strength to strength in this time ( I managed to catch up with a Little Ringed Plover there early this year brooding her five eggs – gorgeous!) and has enabled 3000 local school children each year to have hands-on exeriences with nature. Wildlife aside, this alone is a momentous acheivement and something to be replicated country-wide. In recognition of this the local people of Conwy have recently awarded the reserve with a ‘Conwy Valley Civic Society Award’ to acknowledge their substantial contribution to the local community.

It was fantastic to hear how dynamic a reserve Julian runs at Conwy and his enthusiasm and ability to really take on board the thoughts of the reserves visitors and volunteers was inspiring.

For those that have noticed the low water level at the reserve in recent weeks; an explanation. Dozens of the RSPB’s reserves have been exposed to an invasive plant species, New Zealand Pygmy Weed. With no native ecosytem to keep it in check, this plant can choke the feeding grounds of our birds and so poses a big problem in these places that we’ve nurtured specifically to encourage birds to find solace. Not one to let a mere plant get the better of his efforts, Julian and team at the RSPB have decided to let the water-level lessen in order to then fill the area with sea water – salt saturation being the only known effective solution to removal of New Zealand Pygmy Weed. It is hoped that an added benefit of this will also be increased food stuff for the Lapwings and their chicks, leading to a higher success rate in the young Lapwings. I hope this will well and truly cure the problem caused by the weed and look forward to hearing that it works!

I can’t leave a post without a mention of the amazing Frozen Planet series on the Beeb. The footage alone is stunning, the narration by the legend that is Sir David Attenborough needs no comment, and the most impressive thing of all…our planet. It never ceases to amaze me! I think this weeks shout out has to go to the Woolly Bear Moth, spending a staggering 14 springs gorging before in is strong enough to fly and mate. If you’ve missed any of the series (two episodes so far) then get on i-player and catch up. It’s a phenomenal series.

Kathy x

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