Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reed warblers – a sound of the canal

The reed beds on the Kennet & Avon Canal that can make it interesting and sometimes challenging for boats to pass  — especially with the increasing number of wide-beam boats on the waterway — bring a bonus to bird lovers because they are a perfect habitat for reed warblers. 
Boats passing on the Long Pound on the K&A Canal near Allington:  Picture by Bob Naylor©
Reed warbler: Picture by John Harding/BTO©

You are more likely to hear than see the shy and secretive reed warbler but research by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) shows that they are alive and well and an increase of 48% has been recorded on British Waterways’ canals and rivers in England and Wales compared to a 4% reduction on UK waterways as a whole in the past decade.

BW say that the key reason for increase in the number reed warblers on the canals is the improved water quality and better conservation of the reed bed habitat.
Coir matting rolls pre-planted with water
plants ready to be used on bank repairs.
Picture by Bob Naylor©

BW ecologist, Leela O’Dea, said: “ Unlike common garden birds, which are much better at adapting to changes in their immediate environment, species such as reed warblers are totally dependent on their own unique habitats to ensure a thriving population.

“Better management of the waterways across England and Wales has seen the installation of soft banks and reeded fringes to replace hard edges that benefit reed warblers and other species such as water voles, sand martins and kingfishers."

They are a classic sound of the British Summer — now is your last chance to hear them before they migrate to Africa for the winter.

You can hear their distinctive sound at: RSPB Reed warbler

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