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: 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: 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: Shona Howes
The surrounding birdsong floats to the forefront in joyous harmony with the happy chirps of children exploring bird houses, bug hotels, hogilos and frogilos at our bustling Nature Café at Wroxham Barns. At this time of year, swallows are the star act, with their mesmeric and energetic song; they are most definitely the guest of honour at the café.
Thankfully swallows are not a threatened species, their numbers in the UK are doing well and conservationists currently don’t have reason to be too concerned. But as for any creature, there is no guarantee that things will stay this way.
During those quiet moments at Wroxham Barns, I watch these bubbly little birds with a mixture of joy, that they are here once again for their breeding season, and fear for what may come. The Norfolk Broads is such a special and unique place; providing a home year after year to thousands of different plants and animals, and sustaining all those who, like me, live in Broads communities. Unlike the swallows, there are many creatures relying on the Broads that aren’t so lucky. Swallowtail butterflies, bitterns, fen raft spiders and common frogs are just a few of the creatures that were once abundant in the UK, but are now classed as endangered species. Even with the jolly soundtrack of swallow song as a backdrop, I can’t shake the knowledge that nature is in need of our help.
Nature doesn’t just need conservationists; the great news is that everyday people like you and me can play our part. In recognition of this, last year the RSPB launched its new Community Networks for Nature project in the Norfolk Broads. Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Broadland District Council and Richardson’s Boating Holidays, we are encouraging people to join together with their neighbours and communities to play their part in saving nature in the Broads.
Through places like our Nature Café at Wroxham Barns and by delivering wild activities in parks and schools throughout the Broads, we are inspiring a new breed of budding nature enthusiasts. That means loads more people out there getting to know nature better, creating new homes for wildlife and holding nature events that encourage whole communities to come together to give our wildlife a helping hand.
If you’d like to help support the amazing wildlife found in the Broads, we’re currently looking for a merry band of volunteers to help us share their love of nature with families at our Nature Café at Wroxham Barns. By running fun nature activities for children and sharing the secrets of RSPB Strumpshaw Fen’s special wildlife, just a few hours every couple of weeks will make a real difference for nature.
Full training is provided so all you need is enthusiasm, an ability to communicate with the public and a love of wildlife!
For more information, contact RSPB Volunteer and Community Development Officer, Shona Howes: email@example.com, 01603 715191.
Upcoming Community Networks for Nature Events
Wroxham Barns – Nature Café – every Thursday 10am-2pm throughout the summer holidays. A selection on inspirational activities for you and your family to do at home, plus free children’s activities on site. (Free)
Strumpshaw Fen – Wild Fridays – every Friday 10am-2pm throughout the summer holidays. Fun packed nature days with activities such as bug hunting, shelter building, wild art and games. (RSPB members free. Adults £3.50, concessions £2.50, children (5-17years) £1.50. One child per family goes free.
NEW – Strumpshaw Fen – Bike hire – available every weekend from July 23rd through the summer holidays. Half day adults £12 (£10 RSPB member) Children £6 (£5 member) Full day adult £16 (£13 RSPB member) Children £8 (£6.50 member).