The Primary Objectives are:
To create and improve habitat for breeding waders and waterfowl, particularly Redshank and Shoveler.
To create and improve habitat for wintering and passage waterfowl and waders.
The Secondary Objectives are:
To increase the biodiversity of the site.
To provide public facilities for observation, enjoyment, education and understanding of the site and its wildlife (where they do not compromise the primary objectives).
The Reserve is in its final year of a Higher Level Stewardship scheme and many of the following projects have been done under the scheme’s auspices:
Grazing started at low intensity with cattle on Keith’s Field in mid-June. A good hay crop was taken from the Reserve in mid-July, with aftermath grazing by cattle and sheep through until end November. Primarily, only cattle grazed the Main Lake grassland, with sheep grazing on the middle and northern fields.
Fencing and Hedging
Selected trimming along roadside stretches of the boundary hedges was undertaken, in accordance with the Hedgerow Management Plan. Various repairs were undertaken on fencing as the ageing fence posts have started to fail.
Ragwort and alien plant control
Ragwort control was undertaken by the volunteers involving eight man days; the situation remaining stable, with plants restricted to the designated core area, but excluded from all stock areas. This is accordance with the Reserve’s Ragwort Management Plan/the Ragwort Act (2004), to control and keep in check its presence on the site. It is worth noting that the Reserve hosts a healthy population of the Cinnabar moth, now a ‘Red List’ species, and largely dependent on Ragwort. The garden plant escape Alchemilla mollis in the Silt Lagoon area was again spot-treated with Round-up, but remains a problem.
Tree and Hedgerow Management
Refer to Management Warden’s Report for details.
The rabbit population on the Reserve continues to be controlled by trapping and ferreting.
Monitoring and Surveys
The water level was below the minimum until 10th March, it then peaked at 40.59 on 28th April but had fallen below the minimum board level by August, with a two metre fluctuation.
The monthly WeBS counts have continued.
Low shooting activities this year on the Reserve, roughly at a similar level to that of previous years - this does have a short-term impact, but there was no noticeable long-term effect.
The Reserve continues to attract a wide variety of visitors, from ardent birdwatchers to families who come out to enjoy a day in the countryside. However, numbers were noticeably diminished, undoubtedly due to the low water levels and relative lack of birds. Six organised groups visited during the year (up to the end of the Stewardship Scheme), a decrease compared with 2017, comprising RSPB groups and various local natural history societies. The small collection of geo-caches on site continued to prove attractive, bringing other visitors to the site who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise know about the Reserve.
The site held its first of these popular events on 18th/19th July (a trial bio-blitz was held in 2017, recording over 700 species on site) counting the number of species, of all orders, seen during a 24-hour period. Nosterfield NR was chosen as one of over 50 sites visited by Chris Packham and his team as part of a national UK Bio-blitz Tour, to highlight the importance of less well known nature reserves in providing biodiversity, carry out a national “audit” of the UK’s wildlife, using the strapline of “nature reserves are not enough.”
Including those who came to record species during the event, over 50 volunteers participated and due to their efforts, 1,111 species overall were recorded – the second-highest count of all the participating sites in the UK!
Illustrated talks about the Reserve were given to various groups during the year.
The wet weather in early spring raised water levels, which had a positive impact on the breeding success of this group of birds!
Seven species of wader bred on the reserve with varying success. The 29 pairs of Lapwing was a slight increase on 2017. Over ten pairs failed on the first nesting attempt, although most re-laid, from which at least 30 young fledged. There were no more than eight pairs of Redshank, with six broods seen and about eight young fledged. There were four nesting attempts by Avocet; one pair failed, six young hatched, from which three fledged. Up to four pairs of Curlew bred, two pairs had three young of which at least two fledged. A minimum of five pairs of Oystercatcher bred, five young fledged (one female built a nest in the top of a post in the turning circle – and hatched chicks). Two pairs of Ringed Plover attempted, but failed at the egg stage.
As with the waders, water levels had a significant impact on the breeding success of some species within this group.
Up to seven pairs of Shoveler were present - with broods of eleven, ten, six and two, from which 21 fledged. Of the nine pairs of Gadwall, six hatched young and at least 50 fledged. Just two broods of Tufted Duck were located, but none fledged. Six pairs of Shelduck had young, of which 28 fledged. Two pairs of Great-crested Grebes bred, one of which hatched young, but failed to fledge. There were at least three breeding pairs of Little Grebes, but only two young fledged. Eleven nesting attempts were made by Coot, although most failed but about a dozen young fledged. There were six nesting attempts by Moorhen, five pairs hatched young, from which eight young fledged.
Other Bird Species
At least two pairs of Linnet bred. Only three pairs of Sedge Warblers were present, with evidence of at least one brood in the Silt Lagoons; three singing Lesser Whitethroat were present in early spring and two pairs had three young. However, it was another poor year for hedgerow species – just one brood of Tree Sparrows (in a nestbox) failed at the chick stage. Large numbers of Skylark were present, well into double figure counts of territorial pairs, although breeding was difficult to prove, but it appeared to be a relatively successful year.
The low water levels allowed Black-headed Gulls to nest on Cobble Island (Main Lake) with 94 nests counted - many failed but double figures fledged!
A total of 140 bird species was recorded, well below normal, with one new species recorded on the Reserve - an immature Red-footed Falcon on 16th September. In addition, there were several notable records, including Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes in spring and an adult male Montagu’s Harrier flew through the Reserve on 26th May. In autumn, an adult White-tailed Eagle caused much interest but proved to be an escape, whilst a Great White Egret was present until the year-end. In the Flasks/Kiln Lakes area, a Smew was found in February, three Mealy Redpoll in March, with the welcome return of a Cetti’s Warbler in the reedbed area in the second half of the year.
Wigeon numbers in the first quarter reached 362, whilst the last quarter only reached 152, the low counts due to the excessively low water levels.
Butterflies and Dragonflies
A slight improvement on the Reserve for both these groups - 24 species of butterfly were recorded, highlights including Common Blue and Holly Blue, whilst counts of the Elm-dependant White-letter Hairstreak reached four on several dates. Purple Hairstreak was recorded for the second consecutive year and Dingy Skipper were seen from early May to early June, with a maximum count of five. In contrast, there was just a single record of Gatekeeper and three records of the migrant species Painted Lady. The Wall, a nationally decreasing butterfly and of conservation concern, had counts of six in spring and six in August. There were several records of Brown Argus in spring and again during the second brood in late summer.
Twelve species of dragonfly were noted, including several records of Emperor Dragonfly (maximum count of six), whilst Four spotted Chaser counts peaked at just six, but over 50 Black-tailed Skimmers were present. A single male Broad-Bodied Chaser was found on 14th June. The Reserve’s first Emerald Damselfly occurred during the Bio-blitz in July, whilst the second record of Golden-ringed Dragonfly occurred on 31st July. The new fen area at Flasks Lake attracted Broad-bodied Chaser and Ruddy Darter two additional species to those seen at the Reserve, increasing the species count to 14.
Other insect orders
During the Bio-blitz held in mid-July, nine MV traps were set up on both the Reserve and on the Quarry, the results astounding those doing the checking - 214 species were recorded, which was a Yorkshire record for the most species caught on one night anywhere in the county – ever! The highlights included Blue-bordered Carpet, Dark Spinach and Dark Umber and 30 new species for the SE28 square.
In addition, Green Tiger Beetle again frequented the tracks above the East Silt Lagoon and to the North Hide, whilst Bloody-nosed Beetles were again present along the eastern boundary, particularly in early spring.
There were good numbers of Northern Marsh Orchid spikes and Bee Orchids, many hundreds of Common-spotted Orchid spikes and high numbers of Common Twayblade, but strangely only a handful of Pyramidal Orchids. In autumn, four spikes of Autumn Ladies Tresses were found on the Silt Lagoons for the third successive year.
Also notable was the presence of Otters, particularly in the reed bed, but also at Flasks and Lingham Lakes - these enigmatic mustelids have become a regular attraction, with a female and two well grown cubs almost seen daily and occasionally a large male.
A small improvement in the year for many orders due to the slightly increased water levels during the breeding season, the Reserve continues to deliver its ecological and community objectives.