Wading through Waders
Published: Mar 8, 2017A flock of large blue waders descends upon the usually tranquil Waders Estuary at Living Coasts.
Waders Estuary is usually a tranquil place, with a variety of birds and the panoramic back-drop of the Bay. I say usually, because the other day a flock of large, bright blue waders descended upon this calm corner of Living Coasts. It was us keepers.
Over the course of the year, rain, wind and the birds themselves carry sand from the beach into the pool at Waders Estuary. This needs to be dug out annually and put back on the beach. This was our task the other morning. Every keeper was involved; we met at the estuary after morning rounds and cleaning were done. Eight keepers and an hour of back-breaking work and the sand was returned to the Estuary beach for me to redistribute.
Wading birds can be prone to foot problems, mainly due to the substrate they live on. At Living Coasts, we’ve been working hard to combat this, and part of the strategy is to keep them on a soft fluffy bed of sand. The sand is raked and turned over daily to make sure it remains soft. This, combined with salt-water foot baths, helps to maintain nice healthy feet on our birds.
Clearing out the pool is a hard, messy job that needs to be done every year. It’s important that it is done in plenty of time for the breeding season, to minimise the disturbance to the birds. As the sand was nice and soft afterwards, it also gave me an opportunity to put more mealworm buckets in. The mealworm buckets are small buckets of sand buried so that they are level with the ground. We mix mealworms into the sand for the probing birds to find. The ruff and the oystercatchers particularly appreciate this enrichment device.
Stuart Parr, Living Coasts bird keeper