The following article was written by Martin Calvert and originally printed in the RSPB Leeds Local Group Newsletter). It has been reproduced with his permission.
If somebody had told me that Gledhow Lake would not witness the delightful sight of young moorhens and grebes this year, then I would have questioned the amount of chairs they had at home. However, there was no breeding this spring, due to the upheaval caused by the draining and dredging of the lake in March.
This council initiative involved diverting the stream that flows into the lake, via pipes, then pumping the lake out. An aggregate slope was built to the middle of the lake from the bank so that an excavator and a bulldozer type machine could get to work clearing and loading the four feet of slurry into lorries which left at ten minute intervals. There were two pike in the lake but they drowned in the concentrated slurry that was left behind. After five weeks, the work was complete and the lake was allowed to fill up once more.
On returning to the newly filled lake, now devoid of plant and animal life and areas suitable for nest building, the little grebes and the moorhens didn't want to know. One half-built a nest on a tyre was the only effort by a confused moorhen. My efforts at throwing in branches tied to bricks to provide nest sites couldn't compensate for the unsuitability of the new habitat, although the birds may have found some entertainment in seeing the human species wetfooticus smellrotten.
It is likely that the lake will be healthier in the long run, but it is still a major disappointment this year and perhaps the timing of the operation could have been more suited to the needs of the birds.
On a happier note, 200 blue tits fledged from 27 nestboxes and 28 great tits flew from another 4, with three failures and 3 unused boxes. Not a sniff of ficedula hypoleuca though.
Whilst I was out with my ladders one day, checking progress in the boxes, I saw an adult blue tit frantically flapping on the outside of one box hole. I presumed that it was caught somehow, but as I put the ladders against the tree, it flew off and a tiny unfeathered chick fell out onto the ground via a bush. I was able to locate this 'goldeneye impersonating' blue tit chick and gently replaced it in the box to join its seven two day old siblings. The chick must have either climbed up a thick stem of grass in the nestbox or been forcibly ejected by an adult blue tit. Still, it survived and eight blue tits flew from that box.
Finally, there have been life ticks for the patch as follows:
- 1 common gull on a neighbours roof
- 1 yellowhammer singing in the hospital grounds
- 8 waxwings in a tree next to the paper shop
- 2 cuckoos flying over, one calling and chasing the other
These bring the life list for Gledhow to 77, so whilst Minsmere doesn't need to worry just yet - watch out Roundhay and Meanwood.