Protecting Prior Park's wildlife during the works
Protecting and conserving the natural environment for the animals that call Prior Park home, is an essential part of our work. As such, we are carefully assessing the potential impact that the works may have on the garden's wildlife and we're taking appropriate measures to ensure that any disturbance is minimal.
Over the last few years, a pair of mute swans have used the lower lake as a nesting site and a place to raise their young cygnets. The swans are popular residents of the garden and devising a plan to ensure their safety during the works has been an essential aspect of the project's planning process. Unfortunately, their regular nesting site is in the middle of the area that will undergo work. Therefore it was crucial that we detered them from nesting here and instead encouraged them to nest in a safer and more suitable location.
This was acheived by clearing the vegetation on the east bank of the lower lake during the winter (when the swans were away from the garden). Although some swans did visit the garden early in the year, none stayed for more than a couple of days. Once the works are completed the swans will be able to restablish their nest on the lower lake, and the improvements made by the project, will provide a habitat where their future young can thrive.
As with the swans, the key to ensuring that nesting birds are protected during the dams project, is deterring them from nesting in areas close to where the work is happening. We will pre-emptively remove any trees and shrubs that could be used by birds to nest in the winter months, well in advance of the nesting season in spring. This will encourage birds to nest further up the garden where they will be protected from any negative impact.
The dams project has provided us with an excellent opportunity to complete a survey of the fish living in the Prior Park lakes, as well as a chance to test their health. Before the lakes are drained, the fish will be captured and relocated to a new home. Once the works have been completed, we will then return some of the fish to the lakes.
In the past an otter has been known to use the lower lake as a feeding site. If the lower lake becomes unsuitable during the works, the otter will simply find a more suitable location and feed elsewhere.
Whilst cows aren't strictly wildlife, their presence in the pasture has become a familiar sight in the garden. Our regular cattle will graze in the pasture as usual for the first half of the season, then once the works begin later on in the year, they will simply spend more time on the Bath Skyline. This will actually be benefical to the wildflowers and invertebrates that inhabit the meadow, although it is important that we restart the grazing the following year to maintain a short sward for the wildflowers.
There is one creature who isn't so welcome in the garden. The american signal crayfish is an invasive species that is responsible for the rapid decline of our native white-clawed crayfish. Over the years, the population of american signal crayfish living in the lakes of Prior Park, has grown exponentially and because they like to burrow into banks, they are responsible for much of the damage on the garden's 18th-century dams. A signifcant aspect of the works will be reinforcing the banks of the lakes, in order to make them a less inviting habitat for the crayfish. You may also see humane crayfish traps around the lakes, as we do our best to capture as many of them as possible.