Moor Marshes – Trial Management for Snipe Underway at a Bodmin Moor Lake Site



South West Lakes Trust (SWLT), The Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society (CBWPS) have been working together at one of their Bodmin lake marshes to trial management to benefit snipe.

Although these fantastically camouflaged and secretive birds are found in large numbers in the county during the winter, they were once a common breeding bird on and around Bodmin Moor. Now, only a handful of pairs actually breed in Cornwall and this initiative is looking to restore the habitat they require at appropriate sites.

Claire Mucklow from the RSPB says, ‘Only one drumming male was recorded in recent years at this particular site, very possibly because the molina (purple moor grass) has become really dense, areas have dried out and willow has encroached making it unsuitable for the snipe to breed as they prefer more open vegetation and wetter areas. We hope these trials will show that snipe can be encouraged back.’

Following an initial visit with the RSPB and supported by South West Water who own the site, it was decided to invite a small group of volunteers to help carry out some practical works which, once the areas had been assessed, would include cutting back the molina in the wetter areas to open them up, felling potential predator perches and removing encroaching willow.

Local South West Lakes Trust volunteer Bailiffs and a member of Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society kindly gave up their time to help create three ‘snipe suitable’ areas. Due to the potential archaeological sensitivity, this meant the team cutting tussocks as close to the ground as possible with hand tools and brush cutters within the targeted compartments.

A further day is planned in early December to complete these trial areas and then time and monitoring will tell if they have been successful which, in turn, will help determine future beneficial management not only of this site but others across the Moor if landowners would like to encourage snipe back to breed.

Nigel Tomkinson, Countryside Warden for South West Lakes Trust, said ‘It’s been a great project to work on, especially as it has allowed us to work alongside members of the RSPB and CBWPS, who have been fantastic in offering their expertise and advice.’

Working with Natural England, South West Lakes Trust are also improving habitat at another of their Bodmin Moor lakes, where it is hoped the management will increase the diversity and variety of habitats to benefit snipe, lapwing, plants, invertebrates and other wildlife that need these marshy habitats to thrive.