You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Author: Sharon Barker, Flatford Wildlife Garden
Now that we’re well into August, the spotlight at the wildlife garden has subtly moved away from the birds and towards the bees and butterflies as they make the most of the current wave of flowers on display. However, our butterflies have put in a late showing this year, probably due to the dull, wet weather at the start of the season, and they are not so plentiful now as we would hope. This is all the more reason to consider increasing the butterfly friendly planting for next year. Any help we can give is a must. Particularly busy at the moment are the lavenders, the origanum laevigatum, and the pretty annual cosmos flowers that give and give right through to late autumn so long as they are dead-headed regularly. The nasturtium leaves are providing a food source for caterpillars, whilst the flowers are attracting the bumble bees.
Apart from the buzzing of the bees, it’s gone very quiet in the garden. Where have the birds disappeared to? The melodious singing of the blackbird is missing and even the cheerful chattering of the sparrows in the bushes down near the river is softly subdued. The bedraggled appearance of the now slightly less frequent visitors to the bird feeders provides a clue. The birds are going through their annual moult. Their feathers are worn out and need replacing before the season changes, and this process is energy consuming and leaves them more vulnerable to predators than usual, so it pays them to hide away quietly in bushes and thickets and not draw too much attention to themselves for a while. They will still benefit from well-stocked feeders, sunflower hearts are always a favourite, and topped-up water supplies though, so don’t forget them! If we’re lucky enough to have more hot weather, we can also help by allowing the lawn to grow a little longer. This will protect the habitat of many small creatures, in turn supporting those higher up in the food chain, such as the birds.
For now though, let’s all be sure to take a little time out to enjoy all the wild activity around us, whether it be in a garden at home, a park, or along the way as we ramble on a country holiday. Summer is a fantastic time to enjoy nature and to make plans for how we can encourage and protect it in our gardens!
Visit us at the RSPB’s only dedicated wildlife garden at Flatford, Suffolk or check out www.rspb.org.uk/homes for more ideas on how to look after your garden wildlife.
Author: David White, RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve
Last year, Lakenheath Fen celebrated its twentieth birthday. Back in 1995, the first spade entered what had been a carrot field, found on the border of Cambridgeshire, to begin the creation of a new wetland nature reserve.
This month, we are celebrating another birthday. Twenty years ago this month, the very first reed was planted. This single fluffy frond marked the beginning of our incredible reedbed, and it was quite the undertaking to ensure it became the special place for wildlife that we had envisaged!
Between August 1996 and 2003, one third of a million reeds were planted on the reserve. The majority of this work was done by our dedicated volunteers and unbelievably, in this modern age, by hand! Their hard work resulted in the creation of a much needed home for a great many rare wildlife species such as bittern, bearded tit and marsh harriers. It’s also become a special place for people too, with our nature trails offering visitors the chance to enjoy a vibrant, natural environment and a breath of fresh air from their day to day lives.
Twenty years on from our first reed, I am delighted to say that the reserve is going from strength to strength. Back in 1996, our new inland reedbed was designed primarily to create a place for rare and elusive bittern, whose coastal reedbed homes were predicted to one day be lost to sea level rise. These fantastic birds first nested on the reserve in 2009 and to this day we still have a lively contingent of bittern raising young each year here at Lakenheath Fen.
Our twentieth birthday year has also proved to be a great one for our two resident pairs of cranes who have successfully raised three chicks this summer. Two pairs and three chicks might not sound that many, but there are only around 10 pairs of these magnificent birds found breeding in the UK each summer, so we’ve been thrilled to welcome the new youngsters to our wild family this year!
It’s been an incredible 20 years since that first reed was planted, putting the Fens centre stage in conserving some of the UK’s rarest species and opening up a new wild world to our visitors. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve for wildlife in the next two decades!
For more information about Lakenheath Fen and to plan a visit: www.rspb.org.uk/lakenheathfen.
Author: Emily Neville, Fen Drayton Lakes nature reserve
Marsh harriers are fast becoming my favourite birds. I had never even seen a marsh harrier before working at Fen Drayton Lakes but having spent so much time watching them from the welcome shelter this year, I am now fascinated by these incredible creatures.
Over the past six months I have seen our large rust brown birds of prey elegantly sky dancing, making impressive food passes (where the male passes food to the female when they are both in flight) and searching for the perfect materials to build their nest. And now, after months of baited breath and crossed fingers and toes throughout their breeding season, we are all delighted to be watching two young marsh harriers soaring around the reserve as they find their wings.
These days, breeding marsh harriers aren’t all that uncommon, especially in this area. However, this is the first successful nest at Fen Drayton Lakes in eight years, which is something to celebrate! This pair adds to nearly 400 breeding pairs found in Britain, which is an incredible success story considering that the outlook for this majestic species hasn’t always been so positive.
In 1971 there was just one breeding pair in the UK, found at RSPB Minsmere nature reserve, largely as a result of loss of habitat and persecution during the 18th and 19th centuries and impacts of chemical pesticides in the 1950’s and 60’s. Thanks to the banning of these chemicals, the creation of new habitat and better legal protection, marsh harrier numbers are recovering well.
Much of the new habitat creation has taken place in the East, something we can all be really proud of. As Lakenheath Fen’s reedbed turns twenty years old, it has become perfect for marsh harriers and other species including bitterns and bearded tits. Even more impressive is our work at Ouse Fen, where we’re working with Hanson UK to transform a working sand and gravel quarry into a vast nature reserve with open water, grassland and, when complete, the biggest reedbed in the UK.
So, thanks in part to conservation work in Cambridgeshire, the future is now looking much brighter for our wonderful marsh harriers, and what a treat it is to see one! For a chance to spot our young marsh harriers, there are great views from Fen Drayton’s welcome shelter – just look across Holywell Lake, they are easily distinguished from the adults by the dark colour and bronze head – and (for the moment at least) their rather ungainly landings!
For more information about Fen Drayton Lakes and to plan a visit: www.rspb.org.uk/fendraytonlakes