Victor's Wildlife Report - August 2008

Readers will be aware that THE LAKE HAD TO BE CLOSED on the 29th June due to the presence of Blue-Green algae in the water. The algae can cause illness in young children and animals and so the Environment Agency advised us that the Lake must be closed until the problem is overcome. This meant the cancellation of the Children"s Fishing Match, which had been arranged for that day, and the removal of the Model Boats from the water as well. In addition all Fishing on the lake is now banned, as is the use of the Rowing Boats, etc.

If your dog enters the lake you are advised to thoroughly hose off the algae once you get home, before your pet starts licking itself and swallows the toxic algae.

Visitors to the Lake have also been advised NOT TO FEED THE DUCKS & GEESE because the bread causes extra nutrients to enter the water (one way or the other !) which in turn feeds the dangerous algae. We had hoped that this closure would be over with quite quickly, but this has not proved to be the case. We have also had repeated problems with members of the public ignoring the signs around the lake and continuing to feed the Ducks which has made the solution to the water problem more difficult. New colourful signs have now been put up around the lake and so we do hope that people will finally get the message and stop feeding the "wild birds", so giving the lake time to recover.

This situation would most probably never have arisen if our water pump had still been working. A replacement electric pump is on order, and in the meantime Manchester Leisure have provided a temporary diesel pump (costing 150 per day) to aerate the water and keep the fish alive. As, like any plant, the algae give off oxygen during the day & then take it up again at night, the pump is now being switched on only during the night to ensure that air is pumped into the water when the fish most need it. The Environment Agency continue to test the water, and we hope we will soon be given the "all clear" and can use the lake once more.

Despite the human concern over the algae, the birdlife has been unaffected. One new visitor to the lake, seen on 19th July, was a young Kingfisher. It was most probably a fledgling forced out of parent"s territory now that it is able to fend for itself. This truly was a beautiful little bird, and one I have never seen in the park before. Unfortunately it decided to move on, and did not make Platt Fields its home - even so, it was a delight to see, if only for a short time.

Swifts and swallows have also been seen hunting insects above the lake over the last few weeks, with as many as 40 Swallows seen during the early evenings of June & July. The Ring-necked Parakeets are also still visiting the park, and they can generally be heard before they are seen, flying high above the trees around the eco-garden area.

Our Herons, for the second year in a row, have bred in the park and this time raised two chicks to adulthood. These large birds have now left the nest but can still sometimes be seen amongst the trees around the island.

A surprise visitor to the lake was a Black-Necked Grebe, which was first seen on the lake on 12th July. It only stayed few a few days - just long enough to cause bands of "twitchers" (bird watchers) to descend on the park hoping to catch a glimpse of this rare species.

Black Headed Gulls have also returned to the waters of the lake once more, almost 6 weeks before they normally appear. Is this a sign of global warming - or is it just the proof of what a bad Summer we have had this year ?

If you would like to help keep a record of the birdlife in the park (or are a keen photographer) then the Friends of Platt Fields is thinking of setting up a Bird Watchers Group. If you are interested then please contact Victor Blunden on 0161 225 0879 or e-mail the friends.

Victor Blunden.
Wildlife Reporter.