This blog is about my birding exploits, which mainly take place in the Weymouth/Portland area, in Dorset. Will also include stuff from elsewhere, plus some other critters too. Hope you enjoy. All photographs are © Brett Spencer, unless indicated otherwise. The above image is of a Siberian Rubythroat, taken in Holland in 2016.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Demise of Radipole Lake

The RSPB reserve of Radipole Lake in Weymouth, in birding terms, is a, justifiably, famous place and has been a haven for water birds. Sadly, it's reputation in recent years is much diminished. There are various factors for this, for instance, the Weymouth relief road that took up a fair amount of the flood plain in the late 1980s. This subsequently caused the area to flood more frequently and also helped cause the silting up of the lake. In recent years, the lack of management of the reserve by the RSPB is tantamount to neglect and total incompetence. Open water areas have been left to diminish and the water flow through the reserve has both slowed and in places stopped altogether, causing various problems. Growth of bushes and scrub which dry out reedbeds, for which Radipole is a site of special scientific interest, have been left unchecked and allowed to flourish. A meadow that was once full of thousands of Southern Marsh Orchids has somehow been ruined by management by the RSPB, there are none that I'm aware of in that meadow now.

Future plans for the reserve, I am told, will not be birder friendly. How can this be? The nature reserve in smack bang in the middle of a town, with easy access for visitors by car or public transport. Surely, the RSPB's job is to inspire peoples interest into birds and wildlife in general. If you make a place where birds are reduced in numbers and also restrict the viewing capabilities of being able to enjoy such things, how on earth are you going to inspire people. By listening to experienced birders with a long term knowledge of the site, the RSPB could make this place great again, inspiring not only established birders like myself, but people wanting to get closer to nature. Sadly, due to their total arrogance, the RSPB are not interested in listening to people like myself. So, with much sadness, the future for Radipole Lake is bleak.

Gone are the counts of 500+ Teal, 100+ Shoveler, 600+ Pochard, 500+ Tufted Ducks and regular wintering Scaup. The RSPB website would have you believe that large numbers of Pochard winter at Radipole, but this is not the case anymore, with the maximum count of 18 in 2015. What does it still say to this day about star species on their website? See below.


Large numbers of pochards congregate on the water at Radipole during autumn and winter. They often spend the days asleep as they do most of their feeding at night.

Notice the lower case used in Pochards. 

With water levels kept high these days, gone are the big pre roosts of Black-headed and Common Gulls and gone are the variety of passage waders and counts of 100+ Snipe during the winter. It's even had an impact on the roosting of Yellow Wagtails in the autumn.

Scarce and rare water birds, that understandably generate excitement, have also declined in occurrence. It's certainly had a great track record, emphasis on the had. Shall we have a little look?

Green-winged Teals
Ring-necked Ducks
Ferruginous Ducks
Pied-billed Grebe
Sabine's Gulls
Laughing Gulls
Bonaparte's Gulls
Franklin's Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls (Maximum day count of 4)
Britain's first Caspian Gull, plus others since
White-winged Black Terns
Whiskered Terns
Caspian Terns
Gull-billed Tern
Black-winged Stilts
Kentish Plovers
Sociable Plover
Temminck's Stints
Red-necked Phalarope
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Dowitchers
Pectoral Sandpipers
Wilson's Phalaropes
Terek Sandpiper
Glossy Ibises
Purple Herons
Little Bitterns
Night Herons
Squacco Herons
White and Black Storks
Spotted Crakes (Used to be annual)

Adult Ring-billed Gull, 1 of 9 species of gull, on the gravel island viewable from the visitor centre on 20th March 2004. The island today is impenetrably covered in vegetation and even a small sallow. 

See what mud from the visitor centre can do. Not only does it produce more birds for people to look at and get inspired, but can also turn up rarities, like this Citrine Wagtail on 1st September 2016, thus inspiring me. Alas, they kept water levels high all autumn and as a result, hardly any birds.

An abundance and variety of birds will inspire people and attract people to visit, ultimately helping to recruit RSPB members and also helping the local economy. Makes sense doesn't it?

And then there is Lodmoor. Sadly, a shadow of it's former self and again the product of neglect and certainly a lack of imagination by the RSPB.

Think the RSPB should have a long hard look at itself.

1 comment:

Studland Birder said...

Hi Brett,
Had to check out how bad Lodmoor has become. So bad that I saw ex-Lodmoor Birder, Martin Cade, walking away from it this evening. Only 2 minutes later, I was watching a Least Sand. Ten minutes later as the light was fading, Nick Urch ran up, the Stilt Sand is on the mud 50 metres further along the track. My second jog this evening. I left frustrated that the Great White Egret had already flown off.

You are totally right, it's not a patch on the Radipole of old. One of my early visits to Radipole was to look for the Pied-billed Grebe you mentioned. We spent most of the day there missing it. Then the late Mick Rogers, walked up to tell us about a mythical species, Ivory Gull, in Portland Cove. 30 mins later we were watching it, having hitched a lift with other birders. Now they were the good old days. Saw the PBG a few days later, as well as, the Ivory Gull again.

BTW mate, great find of Least Sand.