It is well established that birds that breed on braided rivers require bare gravel for their nests, and for many years members of the ARRG have understood that weeds pose a major threat to birds nesting on the Ashley. Exactly when weeds became a threat on the river is uncertain, but from the memories of various people, the fairway was essentially weed-free in the 1970s. Historic air photos have recently been obtained and will help in clarifying this. Efforts to clear weeds have been made since at least 2004 – these are documented in the full report.
Unfortunately, this has met with only mixed success and for some time weed pulling was done as a team building exercise rather than with real hopes of creating significant nesting habitat. Some years little or no weed clearing was done because floods had created plenty of bare gravel.
In early 2017 work was done that appeared to show that areas of past gravel extraction were preferred by nesting birds – however this needs to be revisited in more detail. Also, at this time areas of bare gravel were measured from air photos and satellite imagery for the length of the river, there appeared to be a strong correlation between bird numbers in the annual (November) surveys and bare gravel area. This work has led to further efforts to clear weeds. The outcome of that and the relationship between weeds and bird nesting success plus the future prospects are now available in this report.