This year the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has seen more unusual wildlife visitors to its wetland reserves, which are the most important for wildlife habitat.
They provide open water, reed and willow borders, mud banks, and links to open countryside and woodland.
Among this year’s most unusual visitors were rare black-winged stilts which bred at the Trust’s Potteric Carr reserve in South Yorkshire, a first for North England and much to the delight of wildlife watchers. wildlife.
Due to changes in habits imposed this year by weather conditions, The Trust, which has been campaigning for 75 years, believes that new species such as stilts, as well as other visitors including glossy ibis, spoonbills and crakes, are likely to be seen more frequently in the coming years as they move north in search of new feeding and breeding sites.
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Potteric Carr in Doncaster has recorded just over a third of the UK’s dragonfly and damselfly species, including the emerald willow dragonfly for the first time. The reserve is also home to 902 species of moths and 20% of Yorkshire’s breeding bitterns.
Characteristic Spoonbills have been more common at Potteric Carr this summer and are a more frequent annual visitor to the Trust reserve at Kilnsea Wetlands in Spurn.
Shining ibises are a rare visitor to the UK, but have been spotted this summer at several Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves, including Wheldrake Ings, Ripon City Wetlands and Staveley, near Boroughbridge.
The Wheldrake Ings floodplain near York is one of the main national sites for sedges, teals and curlews, and is home to 50% of the UK’s breeding crake population. Ospreys were also spotted there on their southward migration last week. It was also a good year for the reproduction of the very rare willow tit.
Two percent of the UK’s avocets breed in the North Cave wetlands near Hull, alongside one of Yorkshire’s largest sand marten colonies.
Wetlands also provide key habitat for endangered and protected species like crested newts and water voles, which have also declined by 90% over the past 70 years and are on the verge of extinction in Yorkshire.
However, the problem now is that new species must be housed alongside existing and often rare or endangered wildlife and the UK has lost 90% of its wetland habitat due to drainage and building works over the past 100 years.
Across the UK between 2006 and 2012, land cover maps show that over 1,000ha of wetlands have been converted to artificial surfaces
YWT warns that the more the remaining wetlands are fragmented, the greater the risk that they will dry out and become unrecoverable.
On Thursday, YWT launched a Wilder Wetlands campaign asking supporters to donate to help fund the restoration of reedbeds, bringing back wildlife and having volunteers conduct surveys of sightings of endangered animals, such as water vole.
Chief Executive Rachael Bice said: “Wetlands are incredible for biodiversity – and home to more creatures than any other type of habitat. They are home to some of our beloved wildlife all year round and provide a lifeline for new species moving north in search of cooler conditions. They play a vital role in the ecosystems we depend on but are becoming increasingly vulnerable as climate change alters rainfall patterns.
Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England, added: “Over the past 100 years the UK has lost 90% of its wetlands. This has led to the drastic decline of wildlife and made the country more vulnerable to the effects of extreme conditions. The draining of marshes, the draining of peat bogs, the draining of floodplains and the reclamation of coastal marshes have transformed the way our territory looks and functions. Restoring some of these wetlands could bring huge benefits to both people and wildlife.”
The Trust looks after 25 wetland sites across the county, but these are the Trust’s most challenging reserves where water levels can be adjusted and specialist equipment and support is needed. They require constant management and lake margins must be maintained to provide habitat and prevent the reserves from drying out.
It costs over £100,000 every year to ensure these places remain protected and open for people to enjoy.
The Trust is also creating new wetlands from industrial landscapes such as quarries, helping to restore nature in new ways.