Redbridge Lakes - The Nature Conservation Project.

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See our flourishing Kingfishers

As part of a recent Bio-diversity study at Redbridge Lakes that was kindly carried out by the University of East London they recommended that we considered creating a habitat for Kingfishers as Redbridge Lakes was a perfect location.

Kingfishers breed in their first year, and pair-formation usually starts in February. If the male and the female have neighbouring territories, these may merge for the breeding season. We have already seen Kingfishers here at the Lakes and therefore it is very likely we could have a nesting pair if we could create the correct habitat. Both birds excavate the nest burrow into the stone-free sandy soil of a low stream bank, usually about 0.5m from the top. The birds choose a vertical bank clear of vegetation, since this provides a reasonable degree of protection from predators.

The nest tunnel is usually 60-90 cm long, and the 6 cm diameter is only a little wider than the bird. The nest chamber at the end has a slight depression to prevent eggs rolling out, but no material is brought to the nest. 2-3 broods are raised in quick succession, normally in the same nest. Kingfishers have suffered a loss of suitable nesting sites due to river channel management. Heavy machinery that grades the banks and drains the land destroys many nests each year on lowland rivers. Persecution by fishermen and to provide feathers for fishing flies and to satisfy fashion trends seem to be well in the past, especially here at Redbridge Lakes where our young anglers are encouraged to appreciate all wildlife.

Creating the habitat was no mean task but compared to creating the lakes back in 2008 it was easy going. First we needed to replicate the high steep river bank that would normally be created naturally by a meandering river. The bank needed to be raised by at least a metre so we elected to build a steel box that had to be rowed over and placed on the far bank of the pool. In this we inserted a 1 meter length of 100mm soil pipe and then filled the box with top soil with some sandy soil at the end of the pipe to replicate what would naturally be accepted as a good place to dig a nest. As a precaution we insulated the inner side of the steel box to help keep everything nice and warm and placed a layer of waterproof membrane over the top to keep it relatively dry. But this was only the beginning: Kingfishers also need a feeding ground and even the most ambitious kingfisher will have trouble feeding into 15feet of water. So we needed to build a shallow feeding platform.

We have created a floating raft from very buoyant 75mm thick dense polyurethane foam. This was reinforced with steel bars and we fitted some fine mesh cages to the sides. The cages would create habitat for fish fry that might otherwise be consumed by other predators with fins. We also placed a few old stones and bricks at different levels that other water insects and the like that kingfishers feed on could inhabit and some clean gravel to replicate that of the bottom of a stream. All this weight would make the raft sink, but with the aid of a 2nd buoyancy device in the form of a boom of waste water pipe this suspends the raft about 200mm below the water surface which is about the perfect depth for Kingfishers to feed in.

We finished it off with a perch fitted into a half filled bucket of concrete placed into the middle of the raft and for added interest filled with clean gravel to just a minimal distance below the water level to provide an ideal bird bath. Since the complete structure floats the feeding depth will always be consistent even when the water levels are low during dry spells. We are introducing some Roach and Rudd that will breed around April providing plenty of fry and all that is needed now is a viewing hide and a lot of patience. I’m optimistic that our efforts will be rewarded within a couple of years, and whilst we are waiting, there are many other projects to be getting on with and I’m sure there will be lots of other activity going on in Kingfisher pool to keep up our interest.