An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
First, our most ‘eggciting’ news – on 2nd April, Brooke our female swan (pen) laid her first egg! Our bird expert Rob Williams says: “Eggs are laid at roughly two day intervals and are brooded by both parents, who take it in turns to sit whilst the other eats. Once all the eggs are laid, they are incubated for 35-41 days and hatch within about 24 hours of each other.” Last year the pair had seven eggs, three of which hatched, although they sadly lost one cygnet within its first week.
While we are all excited and we know everyone wants to take a look, please can we ask that you all keep your distance from the nest (there is a small barrier) and for the sake of all the nesting birds, that all dogs are keep under control / on a lead and out of the water while at the lake? You know your dog wouldn’t intentionally harm the birds, but they (the swans) don’t.
And again, could we ask everyone to bring some healthy bird food too. We’re not asking you to stop feeding the ducks, just please don’t feed them only white bread, as it’s really not good for them or the lake. Healthy alternatives are cut grapes, duck pellets, grain, corn, shredded lettuce, porridge oats, cut vegetables and unfrozen peas.
While doing a bit of swan watching you may also have spotted something strange going on in the brooks! This may have been the Environment Agency who asked to carry out a routine fish survey starting at Stoke Brook. We have found sticklebacks and stone loach, which provide our kingfishers with their supper, however, with the number of heron around, we’re sure there must be bigger fish in the lake, so we will very interested to know what they find. We did think that a group of herons (called a scattering or siege) were going to nest on the reserve (it’s called a rookery) but they appear to have moved on, although with the number of reports of goldfish disappearing from garden ponds, it would appear they haven’t gone far.
Bench on the move
Our blue bench has also moved, although that too hasn’t moved far. There were some reports of night-time antisocial behaviour at the bench, so it was decided to move the seat further along the path and away from the light in an attempt to solve the problem. The bin there was set alight so often it was removed and I do not know if there are any plans to replace it.
Streams and workdays
We seem to have a bit of a theme about our workdays at the moment. Our last Saturday workday was stream clearing and as well as welcoming Emma, Megan, Pauline and young David, to the group, scoffing homemade mince pies (thanks Geoff) and rescuing Cori the pup, we also managed to collect a huge pile of litter, including bins, buckets, air bricks, a German duck and a very creepy looking doll!
Our Thursday’s Green Gym responded to a message about a tree that was blocking part of the Patchway Brook. We managed to clear away the tree and the blockage although it took us much longer than we’d expected as we had to first clear away the garden waste that had been dumped on the bank. This particular path is also decorated with several Christmas trees; sadly these too don’t rot down and are just an eyesore, unlike the swathes of wild garlic which grow along the bank here and which lent a certain French air to our work!
There are several ‘new works’ scheduled for the reserve – a new pond is being dug on Bowsland Meadow as part of the MetroBus agreement to mitigate for the loss of habitat; the main path between the community orchards and the tump is finally getting an underground pipe to take away the stream water that flows over it; the steps into Savages Wood are being replaced and the wooden bridge is being repaired; and, further into the future, the sewage pipes that run under the reserve will be replaced.
Green Gym has also taken on an area by the Parkway Rail Station; this patch has Kidney Vetch which is vital to the Small Blue Butterfly. The site may be small but it is very important as it’s the only place in this area where these butterflies can be found!
Photo: Swans’ nest (with eggs) at the ‘duck pond’ (photo taken 23rd April).
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.