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: Lizzie Bruce, Warden, The Lodge nature reserve
On a warm spring evening whilst out on the heath here at The Lodge Nature Reserve you may be lucky enough to hear the strange rasping croak of the natterjack toad.
Today they are Britain’s rarest amphibian but this has not always been the case as highlighted in Janet Browne’s biography of well known English naturalist, Charles Darwin.
‘We had a very amusing expedition to Gamlingay heath in search of Natterjacks,’ wrote John Meadows Rodwell. ‘Darwin was very successful in detecting the haunts of these pretty reptiles and catching them. He brought several to Prof. Henslow who said laughingly – Well Darwin, are you going to make Natterjack pie?’ (Charles Darwin: Voyaging: Volume 1 of a biography).
The decline in this fascinating reptile has been linked to changes in land use which has resulted in many areas of their heathland home being lost across the UK - including the site of Darwin’s visit, Gamlingay heath.
Natterjack toad Credit: Andy Hay (RSPB)
To help protect the future of natterjack toads, in the 1980’s, conservationists began a programme of reintroducing the species to areas of remaining heathland. We were delighted to host the first natterjack reintroduction here at The Lodge through a partnership programme between the RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).
So far, the project has been a great success and on a recent lunchtime walk at The Lodge I was surprised to come across natterjacks in the ponds during the day even though they are traditionally a nocturnal species. The male toads cannot hop, so they emerge from their burrows and run to position themselves close to the water’s edge where they make their unmistakable croak. On a still night this can be heard up to 2 km away!
This year, I was lucky enough to watch the toads spawn and saw some long strings of eggs appear. Each toad will lay one ‘string’ which can hold an incredible 4000 eggs. A week later I was back and the pond was full of tiny black wriggly tadpoles and within eight weeks we should start to see toadlets the size of a fingernail emerge and disappear into the surrounding vegetation. They will take two years to reach full maturity, when we hope to see them back at the pond ready to breed once again.
It’s great to see our rare species going for strength to strength at The Lodge and I am loving walking in Darwin’s footsteps as we help to protect a species that fascinated one of the UK’s most esteemed naturalists.
For a chance to hear the natterjack toad for yourself, book a place on the RSPB’s special ‘Twilight Walk (the nightshift)’ at The Lodge nature reserve, Friday 20 May, 8 pm-10 pm.
For more information visit: www.rspb.org.uk/thelodge
Author: Sarah Osborn
Sunday the 8th May was World Migratory Bird Day, an annual celebration highlighting the beauty and wonder of migratory species, as well as the unique challenges we face in protecting them.
As the old saying goes, ‘one swallow does not make a summer’, however for me, the first sighting of summer migrants in our skies is always exciting. I draw hope from the birds’ regular annual arrival, even if the weather remains unpredictable!
As I watch the acrobatic flight of my local swallows when they arrive each year, it is easy to forget just how amazing migration is.
Migrating birds can travel several thousands of miles to spend different seasons in different parts of the world. For some young birds this means finding their way to places they have never been to before. For others, it involves the ability to navigate across continents to exactly the same spot, often the very same nest, year after year. Pretty amazing don’t you think?
As conservationists, this means that we need to ensure that migratory birds have a safe place to live and abundant food in both their summer and winter destinations. And as the migratory journey itself is often long and arduous, we also need to make sure the birds have a safe place to rest and refuel on route between seasonal destinations. It’s a bit like the bird equivalent of our motorway journeys with those longed for service station breaks!
The successful conservation of these international travellers requires an international response. This is why the RSPB is a partner in BirdLife International, a global partnership of independent organisations who aim to protect our migratory species in their seasonal homes and ‘service stations’ around the globe.
Swift. Credit: Alain Georgy (RSPB)
This is a great time of year to watch wildlife. As well as the swifts, swallows and house martins you will begin to see moving into your neighbourhoods, there are a great many other fascinating species settling in for the summer, or just popping in for a spot of food and a rest before carrying on to their final destination.
Whatever the weather and your plans for the forthcoming weekend, why not head outdoors and take some time to enjoy our new arrivals?
To find out more about the RSPB in Cambridgeshire visit www.rspb.org.uk
Keep in touch: www.facebook.com/rspbcambs
Author: David White, Visitor Experience Officer, Lakenham Fen
Here in Cambridgeshire and the surrounding Fens we are lucky enough to provide a home to a wide variety of rare nesting birds. Thanks to fantastic conservation work across the county, our reedbeds are famed for their bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits; the UK’s fast disappearing turtle dove population continues to hang on thanks to wildlife friendly arable farming in the area; and did you know that Cambridgeshire’s wetlands also provide a lifeline to another special bird?
At this time of year, black-tailed godwits are looking their best with a brick red breast, mottled back and a long, mostly orange beak. Around 46 pairs of the limosa race of this species nest at RSPB Nene Washes each year and whilst that probably doesn’t sound like many, this handful of birds are an astounding 90% of the British breeding population.
Black tailed-godwits are a picky bunch, and will only nest in a habitat called ‘wet grassland’ (it does what it says on the tin!), which is a rare and threatened habitat in Britain.
Black-tailed godwits in flight. Credit: Chris Gomersall (RSPB)
This species first nested in Britain at RSPB Ouse Washes in 1952, and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire have since been creating new areas of wet grassland to encourage this species to nest in the area once again.
To make our small black-tailed godwit population feel more at home in the county, the RSPB is currently restoring a 260 hectare area of wet grassland known as March Farmers which sits right next to Nene Washes nature reserve. This is the largest wet grassland restoration project in Britain, making Cambridgeshire the centre of the conservation of one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds! We are hoping that our work at March Farmers will nearly double the UK population of black-tailed godwits in the coming years.
Although the black tailed godwit is not necessarily the most well known nesting bird in the area, it is a very important part of our local wildlife and a bit of a beauty to boot! Why not head over to RSPB Nene Washes to try to see one of these scarce and beautiful birds for yourself?
For more information about RSPB Nene Washes and to plan a visit: www.rspb.org.uk/nenewashes.