Reserve's centrepiece left high and dry

IT SHOULD be like a motorway service station for migrating birds, but months of below-average rainfall has left the main feature at Minsmere bird reserve looking like a desert.

IT SHOULD be like a motorway service station for migrating birds, but months of below-average rainfall has left the main feature at Minsmere bird reserve looking like a desert.

Most of the Scrape at the world-famous nature reserve has dried out, forcing wading birds heading south from northern Europe to find somewhere else to fill up on their long journey.

And with no sign of an end to the drought in sight, it could be several months before the Scrape returns to its normal appearance.

RSPB staff have taken the opportunity to undertake management on the Scrape, there are signs of bonfires where they have cleared vegetation which could have started invading the waterland.

Ian Barthorpe from the RSPB said it had not been possible to maintain normal water levels this year.

“We've only had about 30 per cent of normal rainfall. We can fill the Scrape if levels fall, but this year that would have meant lowering the levels on the reedbeds where the bitterns were nesting.

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“It's been drying out since the end of June. It should not cause long-term damage. Once the water returns the invertebrates will be back and the birds will come back.”

Mr Barthorpe said the Scrape did dry out for a short time three years ago - but this year the drought has been exceptional. “The southern Scrape lagoon is seawater so that has been topped up, but we obviously cannot put seawater into the freshwater lagoons.”

While the Scrape is looking barren, the resort's Island Mere lagoon further inland is full of life - attracting wildfowl that would normally be nearer the sea.

And it has been possible to open extra walks at the reserve through reedbeds giving visitors the chance of a close encounter with attractive rare species like bearded tits.

There is little sign of major rainfall that would help to fill the Scrape.

Sarah Holland from the Met Office said: “August and September have been very dry. July was wetter than normal in East Anglia, but that is not necessarily true everywhere and there has been less rain on the eastern side.

“Things could get unsettled towards the end of the month and into October, but there is no indication of heavy rain in the near future.”

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