At 1pm today I attended a meeting on-site at Widewater in respect of refurbishment and alteration to plinths which will hold natural history identification panels of which two will be birds. On behalf of Widewater, Paula Baker attended as Jo Procter is away.
Aside from the business meeting Paula expressed her concern that a dozen or more dead flounders were visible in the water near her house following sight of them gasping at the surface. During our meeting other residents known to Paula passed and all made similar reports which I was able to confirm across the LNR. This is most easily seen by observation from the north end of the main causeway where just one live fish was moving along the bottom . The dead fish have sunk to the bottom and their grey tops are not easily seen but those upside down reveal their white surface.On Allen Island (opposite the kiosk) a Herring Gull was breaking into a large flounder it had fished out.
This has been reported to Peter Hogan the WSCC Countryside Ranger with responsibility for this LNR.
As ‘laymen’ we could not specifically provide an answer for the cause of this significant event. However it presumably relates to the current continuing spell of very hot weather. The water level in the lagoon is exceptionally low presumably due to evaporation. This may be impacting on the heat of the shallow water and salinity levels, both of which may be a problem for the fish and other creatures. The water level will not be replenished by the ‘mitigation’ sluice system until the Spring tide this coming weekend, providing it is high enough and enough water can flow through while the sluice height is topped..
Plainly there must be concern for various aquatic creatures. Ornithologically our concern may be the impact of the reduced stock of fish and possibly eels and crustaceans etc. on the attraction of the LNR for birds feeding on them such as Cormorants, Egrets and others.
Although reported to Peter, control of the sluice lies with the Environment Agency who, I believe, have never altered the sluice height since its original setting a decade or so ago.
The Lagoon as it exits today has been preserved by man made efforts which have a habit of being unable to contend with the forces of nature. That said, the lagoon may not exit at all in its present form had nature had its way over the past century or so. A thousand years ago this area may have been under water as part of the mile wide Adur estuary!.