Victor's Wildlife Report - August 2010


The Park User Group Meeting on 20th July highlighted the need for a visit to the island to assess its condition, and develop a plan to incorporate it within the ‘Sustainable Lake Strategy’ which we were developing for the lake as a whole.

It was felt that some of the trees around the edge of the lake may (?) need pruning back to prevent their leaves from falling into the waters of lake1, and that tree felling and replanting may be needed on the island itself to encourage greater bio-diversity and encourage the stronger growth of more longer lasting species. We were aware that many of the trees planted in 1908-10 were now nearing the end of their lives and have fallen down over recent years and so limited re-planting may be required.

A visit was duly arranged for Tuesday 3rd August and so Alex Lomas (Park Warden), Alis McCabe (PFAC), Nat Mather (South M/c Model Boat Club) & myself (FOPF) duly donned waders and successfully made it across to the island without mishap. Our first impression was that the island was quite a dark environment with an undergrowth of thin laburnum trees (of limited bio-diversity value). A few goose nests were still in evidence as were a number of abandoned eggs - which we were careful to avoid.

On moving further towards the centre of the island we found silver birch & ash began to predominate as tree cover, together with the occasional oak. None of these trees were very large (probably due to competition for space and the poor soil condition) and it was presumed that they were self-seeded rather than being a part of the original planting of 1908. Several of the trees had been toppled by the gales of recent Winters and were in various stages of decay forming a useful home for fungi and insects. There were, however, a few large specimens of our famous Manchester (Black) Poplars which still appeared to be doing well and had a girth of c 18-24” Being the largest trees to be found on the island it is presumed that they formed a major part of the planting scheme of 1908. One tree was being strangled by ivy and would either need to be rescued or cut down. The trees made the island so dark that nothing was growing on the ground at all, which consisted of just bare earth with a scattering of fallen twigs, etc.

On proceeding to the centre of the island we found it dominated by the trunk of an impressive fallen Black Poplar. The roots were defiantly rising out of the ground but a part of them were still embedded in the soil and so it was not surprising to see new lateral growths forming on the upper side of the fallen tree trunk which was still alive. This will form a dense thicket in due course and will make a good nesting site for birds in the future. There was no evidence of the foundations of the flagpole which had once graced the centre of the island (which was somewhat disappointing) although there were the remains of a few drain covers and a bit of concrete.

On moving to the far edge of the island we noticed some drain pipes, which were exposed and broken - a part of the original drainage system for the island installed in 1908-9. Further drainage holes can be seen all around the edge of the island just above water level. In addition there appeared to be a number of holes in the ground near this area which Alex advised us were made by rats. I had not been aware that the park had a major problem with rats, and so this was a surprise. No other evidence of rats was seen.

On moving back towards our arrival point on the island we inspected ‘the barrage’ area, a shallow, protected area of water at the South end of the island much frequented by cormorants in Winter and used as a sheltered swimming site by many of our more timid species (once favoured by our Great Crested Grebes). The site harbours a number of plastic bags and will need to be cleaned out.

We also had a look at the large Swan’s nest - which still had some eggs in it. Alex advised us that these were in fact ‘goose eggs’ laid after this years cygnets had left the nest. Unfortunately they appear to have been laid too late and had been abandoned. On entering the water for our return journey Alis noticed some discarded fishing line and we all spent several minutes removing it from the water and nearby undergrowth.

It is far too early to make any firm recommendations as the way forward needs to be discussed with all parties concerned, but at least we now have a view of the problems entailed, and can formulate a plan to improve the bio-diversity of the island with due regards to the Sustainable Lake Strategy.

NOTE 1: The Platt Fields Angling Club objected to this idea as the fish require shade and shelter - and this is the only natural place on the lake where these conditions currently exist.