The main beneficiaries of the conservation measures being implemented on the farm are expected to be the breeding populations of waders such as Lapwing, Curlew and Snipe, whilst farmland birds of conservation concern such as Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow will hopefully prosper as a result of the provision of wild bird crops. With raised water levels in the winter, significant numbers of wintering ducks (at least in a local context) are also already benefitting. However, it is nice to see many non-target birds finding the farm to their liking, in particular small numbers of migrant waders.
The UK boasts many sites where large numbers of waders can stop on migration or spend the winter. Estuarine areas such as The Wash, Thames, Tees and the Humber all support internationally important numbers of wildfowl and waders. However, small numbers of waders drop in to feed or rest on small pools and temporary areas of flooding all over the country and although each site on its own may support fairly insignificant numbers of birds, collectively a large number of passage migrants will benefit from the feeding and resting opportunities offered by these areas. In the Scarborough area such habitats are in rather limited supply, so the raised water levels in the spring have quickly been expoited by small numbers of waders dropping into feed and rest. By the autumn there is normally almost none of this type of habitat left in the Scarborough area.
The autumn migration sees significantly larger numbers of passage waders moving through the UK and some of these birds might be expected to pause at the farm if some wet muddy areas are maintained through the autumn. July sees the autumn wader migration getting into full swing and although North Screed is quickly drying out now there are already waders pausing to feed before continuing their way south. This morning a group of 3 Little Ringed Plovers may not have come far, but will have finished breeding and are feeding up before leaving for wintering grounds in Africa. A Wood Sandpiper was also present and is likely to be heading in the same direction as the Little Ringed Plovers.
Many of the scrapes that have been dug around the farm have water in them, but so far they are not being used by passing waders as the conditions on North Screed are by far the preferred feeding area for any birds dropping in. Hopefully the scrapes will start to attract passage waders in due course and it is going to be interesting to see how things develop through the autumn. Obviously there needs to be lowered water levels to undertake the necessary management tasks, but it would be nice to think that in the future it might be possible to get sufficient control of the water levels in order to maintain at least some of the lovely wet muddy conditions, that are so attractive to migrant waders, later in to the autumn period.