28. Keeping Kingfisher's Nesting on the Stort
Theme: Habitats and wildlife
- To maintain and enhance the river's natural habitats and wildlife
Kingfishers are an iconic part of the Stort Valley's natural heritage. However, these beautiful birds are not as common as you might think. They can be given a helping hand to breed successfully by creating artifical nesting sites along the River Stort and Navigation.
Kingfishers build their nests into soft natural surfaces like river banks or up-turned root plates of trees. They need a fairly sheer or vertical surface which has a body of water at its base. This is to help protect the nest from being predated by rats or mink, by preventing them from entering either above or below.
Much of the Stort Navigation is unsuitable for Kingfishers to nest along. This is due to having a lack of soft natural bank that is high enough above the water level.
However some man-made assets, such as flood defence structures and reinforced banks, can offer alternatives for installing artifical nesting sites.
In February 2019, the Environment Agency in partnership with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust's Living River Champion, installed an artifical nest box in a flood defence asset south of Bishop's Stortford.
The next box was specially crafted and lined with clay from the river valley - a material that Kingfisher's would normally use! It was then installed by digging out an area behind a structure made of sheet-piling and drilling a hole through it to allow entry. The final touches were a dab of white solution on the outside to make it obvious to Kingfishers who would mistake this for droppings and investigate.
The project was a success thanks to the Environment Agency's biodiversity team and internal CRAFT team who carried out the installation, and Bob Reed (Living River Champion) for supplying the nest box.
More sites along the Stort Navigation (or nearby waterways, flood meadows) are being sought for further artifical nest sites. These could be located within existing structures or as part of new developments.