Wet bits attract our feathered friends Birdwatch column by PETE MARSH

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WE may all have been moaning about the wettest drought in history during the month of April which also extended into a fair old chunk of May.

It did, however, lead to a few winter wet bits, which have usually dried out by the end of a normal April, retaining enough water and soft mud to be just the perfect recipe for the likes of lapwing, redshank and oystercatcher.

Year after year, the likes of Hare Tarn near Carnforth attract a few water-birds hoping to nest, but then proceed to dry out and and become unsuitable.

I remember a very persistent coot building a nest at Hare Tarn in a particularly warm spring and sitting there in the midst of increasingly dry and dusty mud before finally giving up the ghost.

Many of the wet bits are not as large as, nor graced with historical names like Hare Tarn but given the right conditions, they can be really important.

A small damp area in a field near Farleton in the Lune valley became re-wetted to mid-winter levels by the April deluge and attracted an amazing variety of nesting birds for such as small area. They were remarkably successful!

The usual drying-out did not happen and over the last two months there have been up to 11 lapwing chicks running about of four different sizes as related to the slightly different egg-laying timing by the parents.

Two lots of mallard combined to gather together 13 chicks and a pair of moorhen was trailed by five ungainly black pieces of fluff. More secretive, using the cover of the rushes, were a pair of redshank which, at the time of writing, have managed to rear two youngsters.

These were followed by a pair of noisy oystercatchers and finally by a pair of ringed plover.

How did they all get on in such a confined space? The only conflicts I saw were between the nesting birds and other visitors to the site.

A couple of very stroppy shelduck occasionally visited and tried to monopolise the water, chasing the female and young mallard. Indeed, when danger lurked in the form of a pair of carrion crows trying to grab the smaller lapwing chicks, the advantage of nesting together was there for all to see.

Whilst a single isolated pair of nesting lapwing might struggle to stop two crows taking their young, the crows have very little chance against the combined dive-bombing efforts of eight adults, plus some help from the redshank and oystercatcher.

As well as the nesting birds, the muddy edges attracted a variety of passing trade.

A wood sandpiper popped in on the way from Africa to north Norway and up to five spectacular ruff liked it so much, they stayed for almost a month.

Little ringed plover paid occasional visits from their nest sites in the Lune shingle banks and a male Yellow Wagtail chased flies along the edge along with the resident pied wagtails.

If any such wet areas survive on your land, ensuring they are retained will greatly benefit locally breeding waders and other wetland wildlife.

A couple of hours with a digger can create a good sized wader scrape and they can even be funded through government agri-environment schemes. Contact the RSPB Bowland Wader Project on 07814 462429 for more information.