During the winter of 2018 and 2019 The Ecology Consultancy have been carrying out wintering bird surveys at the Lee Valley. This work forms part of a Habitat Regulations Assessment we are conducting for a major rail infrastructure project.
The Lee Valley is a 20km long stretch of wetlands and reservoirs to the north-east of London. It is designated as both a Ramsar site* and as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Under the Directive, Member States have a duty to protect and improve habitat for wild birds.
The SPA designation was put in place due to the populations of gadwall Anas strepera and shoveler Anas clypeata that spend the winter in the Lee Valley and are of European significance. Reedbed areas also support significant numbers of wintering bittern Botaurus stellaris. There are also nationally important wintering populations of smew Mergellus albellus and water rail Rallus aquaticus that led to the Valley’s Ramsar designation.
Wintering bird surveys are carried out either at dawn or dusk when birds are more likely to congregate, and during the months of November, December, January and February, and breeding bird surveys are carried out in the warmer months from March to September.
During the survey we aimed to record all species of divers, grebes, cormorants, herons, geese, ducks, rails, waders, kingfishers and any other notable species to better understand what species of bird are currently using this area of the Lee Valley. A drake goldeneye (pictured above) was amongst the duck species recorded.
During one January survey of the Bowyers Water reservoir near Cheshunt, our surveyors were lucky enough to encounter one of the Ramsar species, a smew. It is a small diving duck with a specialised, saw-like bill, that it uses to hunt fish and insect larvae. It is a winter visitor to the British Isles in very small numbers, usually with no more than 180, from Scandinavia and Russia. The smew that was sighted (pictured below) was mostly grey, with a chestnut forehead and crown, indicating it was either a female or immature male.
The Ecology Consultancy are pleased to be involved in this project at an early stage, as it is likely to facilitate improved outcomes for both wildlife and people.
If you have a project that may need ecology surveys, please contact us to discuss your needs, firstname.lastname@example.org.
*a wetland designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention
All images © Dave Morrison, 2018