WADING birds gathered in record numbers at Dovestone Reservoir in Greenfield this breeding season, thanks to an ambitious ongoing bog restoration programme.
Over the summer, RSPB staff and volunteer surveyors recorded 49 pairs of dunlins at the site – up from the 39 pairs observed in 2014 and last year’s previous record of 44.
The RSPB also saw golden plovers increase at Dovestone by a fifth, rising from 92 in 2014 to 110 this year.
Dunlins are small wading birds that love breeding in wet hilly places and have been gradually increasing at Dovestone over the past decade after virtually vanishing from the Peak District in the early 2000s.
Golden plovers are medium-sized wading birds that also favor nesting on wet bogs and, likewise, their numbers have been steadily growing at Dovestone in recent years.
The RSPB, which manages Dovestone in partnership with landowner United Utilities, has discovered a direct correlation between this increase of breeding wading birds and the restoration of blanket bog at the site.
As well as provide insect food for birds, they lock up harmful carbon, improve water quality by acting as a natural filtration system and prevent flooding by slowing down the water flow.
However, like much of this habitat in the UK, Dovestone’s had been damaged by past industrial air pollution, leaving large areas of bare, dried out peat.
Since 2005, United Utilities and the RSPB have been working to restore Dovestone’s bog by covering the bare damaged peat with new vegetation, blocking gullies to raise the water table and sowing new sphagnum moss.
The increase in breeding waders appears to be rising in direct response to the improving habitat.
Dave O’Hara, RSPB site manager at Dovestone, said: “It’s no coincidence that numbers of breeding waders at Dovestone began to increase at the same time we began to restore the blanket bog with our partner United Utilities.
“It’s gratifying and inspiring to see our continuing restoration work paying off with more and more wading birds nesting here every year.
“Thanks to generous funding from WREN, we are currently in the middle of Sowing the Moss, a three-year project working with volunteers to plant more sphagnum, which will help rebuild the bog.
“Restoring Dovestone’s bog is a huge long-term undertaking but it’s such an important habitat that brings so many benefits for wildlife and people that it’s well worth all the effort that everyone has – and continues – to put in.”
Ed Lawrance, Catchment Partnership Officer at United Utilities, said: “The moorland restoration work is a long-term project, originally driven by our approach to improve water quality in a sustainable way, reducing treatment costs for our customers.
“It’s wonderful to see the dramatic result it has had for wading birds at Dovestone. It’s a brilliant example of a win-win partnership and we are very proud of what’s been achieved.”