November 2017 Task

The November conservation task is on Sunday 5 November 2017 in the Green Flag awarded Waterworks Nature Reserve, formerly the Essex Filter Beds on Lea Bridge Road.

We will be working in a filter bed around the bird hide renovating the kingfisher bank and the area around it. The reason for this work is that a kingfisher has taken up residence at the Waterworks Nature Reserve but not in the filter bed where the kingfisher bank was created many years ago. Details of an ideal kingfisher bank are below.

The task will help to entice a pair of breeding kingfishers into the Nature Reserve for next spring.

Kingfishers

The following information is from the RSPB. There are an estimated 3,800 – 4,600 breeding pairs in the UK

Kingfishers breed in their first year, and pair-formation usually starts in February. If the male and the female have neighbouring territories, these may merge for the breeding season.

Both birds excavate the nest burrow into the stone-free sandy soil of a low stream bank, usually about 0.5m from the top. The birds choose a vertical bank clear of vegetation, since this provides a reasonable degree of protection from predators.

The nest tunnel is usually 60-90 cm long, and the 6 cm diameter is only a little wider than the bird. The nest chamber at the end has a slight depression to prevent eggs rolling out, but no material is brought to the nest. 2-3 broods are raised in quick succession, normally in the same nest.

The first clutch of 6-7 eggs is laid late in March or early in April. Both adults incubate the eggs, and the chicks hatch 19-21 days later. Each chick can eat 12-18 fish a day, and they are fed in rotation once a chick is fed, it moves to the back of the nest to digest its meal, causing the others to move forward.

Territory is extremely important for kingfishers all year round. Any bird that is unable to secure a territory with an adequate food supply is likely to perish. This is particularly important before the onset of winter. The birds start to contest territories by mid-September. A breeding pair will often divide their summer territory between them. Freezing weather can sometimes force the birds out of their territories, which often takes them to less suitable habitats or into conflict with other resident kingfishers.

The size of the territory depends on the amount of food available, and on the bird population in the area. Territories tend to cover at least 1km of river, but may extend over 3/5 km. Any nearby waterbody that provides good fishing will be included in the territory.

Kingfishers are very short-lived. Many young will not have learned to fish by the time they are driven out of their parents’ territory. 

It is thought that only a half of the fledglings survive more than a week or two.

Although only a quarter survive to breed the following year, this is enough to maintain the population. Likewise, only a quarter of adult birds survive from one breeding season to the next. Very few birds live longer than one breeding season. The oldest bird on record was only 7.5 years.

Most kingfishers die of cold or lack of food a severe winter can kill a very high percentage of the birds. Despite high breeding productivity, populations can take many years to recover from a bad winter. Weather conditions in the summer can also cause significant mortality. Cold weather or flooding in the summer can make fishing difficult, resulting in starvation of the brood, while flooding can also claim many nests.

Traffic and window collisions are other known causes of death. The main predator is the domestic cat, but rats can also be a serious problem in places.

Kingfishers are high up in the food chain, and therefore extremely vulnerable to build-up of chemicals. Industrial pollution and contamination by agricultural run-off kills the fish birds rely on, effectively excluding the birds from many stretches of river that would otherwise be suitable habitats. The long-term population declines since 1970 are generally attributed to river pollution.

Human disturbance of nesting birds is a serious problem, since the broods fail if something upsets the feeding routine. If human presence close to a nest prevents these shy birds from entering the nest for too long, the chicks may weaken enough (either from cold or hunger) to stop calling. This makes the parents wrongly assume that they are well fed and will not feed them. As a result, the chicks will perish.

Heavy machinery that grades the banks and drains the land destroys many nests each year on lowland rivers. Persecution by fishermen and to provide feathers for fishing flies and to satisfy fashion trends seem to be well in the past.

As a fairly rare, easily disturbed bird, the kingfisher is afforded the highest degree of legal protection under the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It is an offence to take, injure or kill a kingfisher or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young. It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds close to their nest during the breeding season. Violation of the law can attract fines up to £5,000 per offence and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.

Read more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/k/kingfisher/

Join Us

As always everybody is welcome to volunteer with LBCV. No  experience is required. Please wear sturdy footwear and appropriate clothing for the work and weather.

We can provide wellingtons in the morning and you must return them. So please arrive in plenty of time to select your pair. Please bring some lunch.

LBCV will provide tools, training, gloves, tea, coffee and biscuits.

Please arrive from 9:30am onwards at the Waterworks Centre Lammas Road, off Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QT, for a 10am departure. The meeting place is the former golf centre across from the former Greyhound Public House on Lea Bridge Road. We will leave at 10am for a walk to the task site. Volunteers are welcome to meet us on site, before the tools talk, please text 07757 766950, before 9am on Sunday, so we can provide enough tools and gloves.

Please lock bicycles to the stands in front of the Waterworks Centre. There is ample free car parking there too. Dogs are not allowed on the Nature Reserve so please do not cross the bridge with dogs or ride bicycles in the nature reserve. Dogs are still welcome on some tasks, including this one, we just request that their owners wait with the LBCV catering team at the Waterworks Centre, while the tools are loaded. Please read this article if you think we are being draconian http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6978272.stm

As usual we will have post task refreshments in the Hare and Hounds on Lea Bridge Road.

Volunteering and doing a conservation task with LBCV in North East London, is great way to meet new people, learn new skills, use old skills, be more active, get closer to nature, make a difference and have some fun with like minded people in the Lea Valley Regional Park.
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