Maer Lake

The most satisfying thing to report about Maer Lake is that since the joint purchase of the reserve by the Trust and the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society the number of birds visiting the site has dramatically increased. The following report, prepared in summer 1996, gives some idea of why this is considered to be one of Cornwall's best bird sites.

During the last winter period a record number of 423 teal was counted at Maer, and over 2,000 lapwing were also present, along with our usual more-expected winter visitors. Scarce visitors have included pintail, gadwall and brent geese. With the cold and frosty winter weather I had expected to see more grey geese, and just two white-fronted geese was slightly disappointing. Revealing my age, I can remember when the little egret was a rare sight in Cornwall. It has always been one of my favourites, but I do still find it surprising when I see one at Maer on a cold February day in the company of white-fronts! Greylag geese again put in a late appearance with six on 1st April. It would be interesting to speculate on how far south they had been wintering. Rude is generally not the best area for seeing rare and scarce gulls, so the long-staying Iceland and Mediterranean gulls using the roost at Maer were very welcome. Little gull again put in its usual brief annual appearance. The management work carried out last summer proved to be a great success, and a substantial flow of open water was available to the birds, even during the severest of frosts. Where in the past many birds would have been forced to leave Maer during harsh, freezing conditions, this winter we were able to provide safe refuge, and on one January morning over 3,000 duck and plover were crowded around the open water.

Like most birdwatchers in Cornwall, I was very disappointed with the cold spring weather, and especially with the predominantly northerly winds that prevailed. But, again, Maer did not disappoint us, with little ringed plover, yellow wagtail, parties of up to 23 whimbrel and all the usual waders passing through. Highlights included a sanderling in full summer plumage, and a curlew sandpiper about two-thirds into summer plumage. Curlew sandpiper is a bird you expect to see in the autumn, but is always an excellent spring record. Even more scarce in spring is little stint, and the one at Maer on 19th April was only the 20th spring county record of this species over a period of 46 years! So I was doubly delighted when a second bird arrived on 20th May in full summer plumage. A flock of 36 pied wagtails and four white wagtails was also notable. The final birds to arrive on the spring migration provided a wonderful spectacle. With Maer looking at its best on a warm, still, early-June day, 26 black-tailed godwits arrived. Wheeling and circling around the lake, their reflections were perfectly mirrored in the still water, and their excited kee- wee-wee call echoed around the marsh. A captivating experience!

I was very pleased last year when three pairs of black- headed gulls nested at Maer. This year six nests were built. Unfortunately heavy rain fell at a critical time, and the water rose, chilling the eggs in five nests. The sixth survived and one young was successfully reared. A pair of teal has remained throughout the summer, but I have seen no evidence of an attempt at breeding. Water rail have been calling each morning fmm first light to around 7.45am, and I will be hoping to see juveniles in July as the water level starts to drop.

The management team has held its annual meeting, and a new programme of work has been planned. We shall again be clearing ditches, and removing and cutting the encroaching flag iris. We will also try to provide a raised area where the black-headed gulls can hopefully nest in safety.

Graham Sutton

Graham Sutton holds key positions in both the Trust and the CBWPS, as well as the North Cornwall Natural Trust History Club. He is well known as an authority on bird life and as a professional photographer.

Water rail. Photo: Graham Sutton

Habitat Appeal | Contents | From the conservation office