• Austen Moore

Creating a Wader Scrape for Wildlife in Cambridgeshire

In 2017 I was a committee member of a Local Wildfowling & Conservation Organisation. My main interest was in the conservation aspects of the organisation and the work that was carried out across the land aimed at creating new habitats and maintaining existing ones.

Some land had recently been purchased and I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to develop half of the field into a new Wader Scrape. We would be using approximately 4 Acres for the Wader Scrape. The 4 Acres we choose was at the lower end of the field. The other half began to rise and never flooded which meant it wasn't suitable.

The first thing to do was to establish how much of the field we could use and how much we wanted to use. As I said above, one half of the field (south end) began to rise, so this made the job of choosing easier for us. Added to this, the main river ran across the bottom of the field which was effectively the North end. The two drains running either side of this field nearly always had water in them, which was a good sign. The water level in these drains would rise and fall depending on the water level in the river, which can be raised or lowered by Middle Level.

I set about planning what we could do with the wader scrape design. I wanted to do something very different. Instead of just one undulating scrape, I wanted to create multiple types of habitat within the space to attract as many different species as possible. At the same time, I wanted it to be easy to maintain. For this reason, everything we created allowed for a tractor and flail mover attachment to be driven around it for future maintenance. Because we had the dykes running either side of the field, I knew we could also add some underground pipe from these at each side to allow us to fill the scrape if needed when the water levels were increased by middle level. This was very easy to do by just burying some soil pipe just below the surface and adding a simple elbow joint at the scrape side which we could just turn up or down when, or if, water needed to be added.

We chose to use a local digger that had also done work on wader scrapes for the RSPB, so his knowledge was invaluable. Together we came up with following design. We would have 3 circular deeper ponds that would always hold water, and these would be at the upper end. There would also be a half moon shaped deeper pond a little further down. These would always hold water and everything we created would be seamlessly connected to the whole scrape with undulating channels that would all link. Nearest to the large ponds the channel would be scraped out at 1 meter deep so the deeper pond would always feed water into the connecting channels. Further down the channels would always be constantly undulating from a few hundred millimetres in depth to 600 or more and up again. These changes in heights would allow for wading birds and those that have a preference for different water depth.

On the right are pictures of the interlinking channels with undulating depths being created. The spoil was then spread across the surrounding land. Any breeding Ducks would be able to safely swim down any of the channels towards the North end which was next to the river.

We also created two very shallow long scrapes which you can see in the top picture that sat below the 3 circular deep ponds. These would only have water on during times of sustained rainfall or during winter and would just result in surface water covering the grass which Ducks love to feed and dabble in. This is where you often find Ducks feeding in winter. Often people think Ducks spend their time on ponds and deep water. What they don't see is that at dusk, these Ducks fly off to areas of grass that are covered in just a small amount of water around 100-200 millimetres in depth. Here they can spend the night feeding.

In the photos above you can see what the new wader scrapes looked like in summer, one year on from when we first carried out the work. You can also see the simple elbow joint that we can use as a valve to add water to the scrape if required.

There is so much wildlife already using the scrapes. This habitat hasn't just been about birds. It has numerous other species using it, including snakes and more water voles than I have seen one place before.

I hope you have found this article interesting. It may seem strange to find an article about creating a wader scrape on the page of a Life & Business Coach. But when you think about it, it fits perfectly with all the aspects of Life Coaching and Business Coaching. If you get the opportunity to do something for others or just for the environment, this gives you a far greater sense of achievement and fulfilment than doing something that you are just paid to do. The organisation I did this for is a business, so being able to carry out this project, something I hadn't previously done before was a challenge. It has received a visit from a national conservation organisation that said it was very different to anything they had seen previously, and they were very impressed with it. I hope it will be there for many years to come. I have been informed that they have now also planted the upper end of the field with a large number of trees which will provide additional habitat for wildlife.

If you have any land suitable for creating a wader scrape for wading birds and other species and you'd like to know more about how this wader scrape in Cambridgeshire was created, please feel free to get in touch.

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