Wednesday, 24 April 2013

24th April: Eel Conservation

Today I was back on Ham Wall RSPB helping with the weekly volunteer work party. First job was shifting a load of reed compost from the reserve back to the Avalon Marshes Centre. Composting is an eco-friendly way of removing the reed cut from the reserve as part of the management program, and is available to buy for your garden. It makes as excellent soil conditioner apparently. More details on the process and how you can get hold of some are available here on the Ham Wall RSPB website
A loaded trailer next to the composting 'pods'
After that (and a quick tea break next to the 2nd viewing platform where we saw 2 Garganey), we started assembling an Eel Ladder. Before the area was drained, migrating eels could access the wetlands through natural river systems. Nowadays, the complex network of rhynes, ditches, sluices and banks separate many reedbeds and marshes from the rivers, making it difficult for eels to access them. These eel ladders, supplied by the Environment Agency provide an ingenious means to allow eels to recolonize areas they have previously been lost from. Eel populations have suffered terribly from over-fishing and pollution, as well as from being isolated from suitable habitats, like the Avalon Marshes.

A raised bank separates the majority of the reserve from the Glastonbury Canal (which connects to the South Drain and then flows into the Bristol Channel at Huntspill). The bank is too big an obstacle for young eels to navigate, so they need a helping hand. A covered tunnel runs from the top of the bank into the Glastonbury Canal, on the crest of the ridge it connects to a pipe which runs down into the reserve. A small pump, like the one in your garden pond at the connection point runs during the night to create a flow of water down both the pipe and the tunnel. As the pumped water flows down the tunnel into the Canal, eels can detect the change in water properties, and if it is to the liking (which it certainly should be) clamber up the tunnel, then down through the pipe and into the marsh.

The tunnel with the lid opened. The bristles make it easier for the eels to climb up

The pipe which deposits eels into the reserve.
To find out more about the complex management of the nature reserves, join me for a Guided Walk or Private Tour. SEE MORE, LEARN MORE!

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