Welcome to our thirteenth RTCT newsletter. We always love to update people on what is happening around the catchment, and what better way to fill people in than with a monthly newsletter. We hope that you enjoy reading and welcome any suggestions for next month, just send them to Natalie@riverthame.org
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Another year has gone, but what a year it has been! A big thank you to all of our volunteers who make our work possible!
Fish Refuge – Chalgrove Brook
Last month we created a fish refuge on the Chalgrove Brook in Stadhampton. Fish refuges are ponds or ditches attached the main river or stream channel which provide perfect areas for fish nurseries with their low flow and warm water. In a river catchment that has been subjected to numerous pollution events such as ours, fish refuges also provide areas of protection from pollution.
Arable farm project
The Trust, with partners Freshwater Habitats Trust have been funded by the Environment Agency to engage with farmers and raise awareness of water quality issues associated with arable farming.
This project also involves water quality testing around farms and offering recommendations based on the results.
We have visited 2 farms in the last month and there are plans to visit more in the New Year.
Yellow Fish anti-pollution campaign by the Watlington Environment Group
The Chalgrove Brook in Watlington is a spawning and nursery area for Brown Trout, and Watlington Environment Group (WEG) has been improving instream habitat for the fish over the past three years. But, in May this year all the trout in the Town were killed by a toxic substance that got into the Brook along a culverted section where a number of road drains discharge into the Brook.
In response WEG has begun a campaign to raise awareness about pollution from road drains using the Yellow Fish ‘Only Rain Down the Drain’ scheme
This month, with support from the Environment Agency and the Parish Council, and permission from Oxfordshire County Council, the first of 130 Yellow fish plaques have been stuck to kerb stones next to road drains. The aim is to have a plaque or a stencilled Yellow Fish on all the vulnerable road drains in the Town which link to the Brook.
The campaign has also included articles in the local paper, a stand at the town’s Christmas Fair, flyers are to be delivered to all properties.
Volunteer catchment wide bird surveying
Our wetland bird survey (WeBS) has recently celebrated its 2nd anniversary and its sister survey (Atlas) has begun its 2nd year of fieldwork. The data gathered by the vast team of volunteer surveyors is telling a valuable story of the birds that use the River and the wider catchment.
Reflecting on progress since November 2015 when WeBS started shows just how valuable a contribution the 65 volunteer surveyors have made:
- 650 survey visits
- 11,000 individual records
- 2,000 volunteer hours
On top of the valuable support offered by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), this equates to over £26,500 worth of in kind support (equivalent to 1 full time employee!!
We have now recorded 133 species in the catchment in just 2 years. Some exciting records too in the list including Osprey, Whimbrel, Hawfinch, Jack Snipe, Short Eared Owl and Peregrine.
Of these records 47 species are wetland specialists – an impressive total given the last 2 winters have been relatively dry with little floodwater to attract in a wider range of ducks and wading birds.
The surveys are also highlighting really important areas for birds on the river. The stretches of river between Aylesbury to Eythrop and Thame to Waterstock have returned the highest numbers of records (112 species between Ickford and Waterstock and 80 species Aylesbury STW Tetrad alone).
As with all surveys of this nature it is the wider spatial mapping and longer term trends that really tell the story. The Atlas survey coverage now stands as 55% of the catchment in only the 2nd year of a 4-year project and the WeBS survey is now into its 3rd year.
This is a fantastic effort by each of the volunteer surveys and a massive thank-you to them all for their efforts it is really making a difference.