Ouse Fen (Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project) - Blog

Ouse Fen (Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project)

Ouse Fen (Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project)
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Ouse Fen (Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project) - Blog

  • A behind the scenes look at when BBC Countryfile visited the Hanson RSPB Wetland Project

    Exciting news! This Sunday, the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project featured on BBC Countryfile. Whether you saw it or not, here is a behind the scenes blog post and photos about the day that Countryfile visited Ouse Fen.

    It was an early start on Friday 26 January and I got to Hanson UK’s offices at Needingworth Quarry at 07.20. After a quick chat with Hilton Law, the quarry’s Site Manager, I met up with RSPB Project Manager Matt York and Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the press team at RSPB HQ. The BBC arrived shortly afterwards and presenter Matt Baker was shown into the quarry control room. Once this happened, we all got ourselves layered up ready for a day of filming out on site.

    Our first stop was the quarry’s ‘Reject Graveyard’, which is where surplus material from the quarrying process is stored. The first piece to camera showed Matt Baker interviewing Hilton Law about the archaeology of the site. It was fascinating to hear how many fossils are found here on a regular basis. Remains of several species of birds have also been found over the years, including many reedbed species and even Dalmatian pelicans.

    Director Ruth Davies arranging her shots:

    Hilton and Matt in discussion on camera:

    Whilst the filming was taking place, a digger driver was waiting patiently to continue manoeuvring the material. The digger was then put to work to demonstrate the process in the Rejects Graveyard.

    The digger at work with Hilton and Matt filming a piece to camera in the background:

    The next stop was the so called ‘moonscape’, this gigantic hole in the ground is where Hanson are currently quarrying:

    If you are wondering what the big lumps are, they are made of clay which is a waste product from the process. The clay will eventually be used to line the reserve pools when they are dug out.

    The Director and film crew seemed to be enjoying the experience as much as we were!:

     Matt Baker then did a piece to camera that featured one of Hanson’s “big boy’s toys”:

     After a short piece to camera about the quarry conveyor belt, it was off to part if the project that has already been handed over to the RSPB and which is being managed as part of the ever growing RSPB Ouse Fen Nature Reserve. Our filming location was Cell 3, or ‘Lock Keepers Mere’, which was looking lovely on the day:


    Filming recommenced with Matt Baker interviewing Matt York about the project:

    Importantly, lunch was served from the back of a 4x4!:

    It was then time to get on (and in!) the water. The next shots involved Matt Baker and reserve Warden Hannah Bernie getting in the water to sink some willow bundles which were to be sunk in order to provide more habitat and refuges for the fish population. Although I didn’t manage to get out on the boat to see the filming, here are a couple of pictures of beforehand:

    The boats, cameras and sandbags ready to go:

     Hannah gets her microphone fitted (under her hat!) and discusses the site with Matt:


    The crew set off:

    Several journeys were needed:

     To be followed by RSPB Ouse Valley Senior Sites Manager Chris Hudson (on the left) with the fish that are being released to enhance the native fish population on this recently created habitat:

    After the filming was complete, everyone was ferried back to base (in a couple of trips mind!):

    While all of this was going on, co-presenter Ellie Harrison had arrived ready to film the final scenes. Here are Hannah and Matt returning to base with Ellie looking on:

    Before filming the final sequences:

    Having finished his filming duties and piece to camera, Chris went back out with Ouse Fen volunteers John Leech, Sue Jarrett  (in the boat with Chris) and Assistant Warden Richard Taylor (on the shore) to continue the fish release process:

    In the meantime, it was time to film the farewell and here is one more picture of cold looking Matt and Ellie during the final scene:

    Image credits: David White and the Ouse Fen Project Team

    So there you have it: a behind the scenes look. We had so much fun on the day, and being involved was a great experience. If you didn’t manage to see the programme, it can be found on BBC iPlayer by following this link. We hope you enjoy the show!

  • Some exciting news!

    We are very pleased to say that BBC Countryfile were on site filming on Friday 26 January. The feature will be broadcast as part of the programme on Sunday 11 February. We can't wait to see it!

    More photographs and information willow follow in due course, but there are a couple of landscape images from the day:

    A view from inside the quarry:


    The afternoon light over the reedbeds:

    Image credits: David White

    We hope you enjoy the programme when you see it! 

  • RSPB reserves in the Cambridgeshire Fens review of 2017

    Happy New Year to you all! We hope you all had good festive seasons.

    I will start the year with a review of 2017 from our RSPB reserves in the Cambridgeshire Fens:

    RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes

    The reserve was treated to the presence of a rare bird in May when a female red footed falcon appeared on 5 May. It was present for a couple of weeks and bought lot's of people to the reserve.  Please follow this link to find a photograph of this stunning bird.

    A new viewing shelter and seasonal trail was completed in August. The shelter overlooks Ferry Lagoon and here are some pictures of the shelter and the new views:

    Image credits: Luke Wake

    There was also some excitement in August when Assistant Warden Luke Wake found the reserve's first willow emerald damselfly at the end of the month. This species is on the increase in Britain and here is a picture of one that I took at RSPB Lakenheath Fen in 2016:

    Image credit: David White

    Hopefully, this beautiful species will continue to spread across the reserve in years to come. 

    In botanical news, there were at least 20 spikes of bee orchids on the reserve in June which were lovely to see.

    There was an impressive gathering of fish loving bird species at the reserve in the autumn with over 50 little egrets, three great white egrets and over 100 cormorants, What a spectacle!

    RSPB Ouse Fen

    There were seven booming bitterns on the reserve in the spring which is a great number. There were 27 booming males in the Fens this year, so the reserve held an impressive 26% of the Fens population of booming males! Although marsh harriers didn't have the best breeding season, this was mirrored across several sites in the Fens so hopefully they will have a better year next year. Bearded tits were also widespread across the reserve.

    A new promotional video was produced in the spring to showcase how the Hanson RSPB Wetland Project is creating RSPB Ouse Fen at Needingworth Quarry. It can be found on the project's brand new page if you haven't seen it already. 

    A delegation from China visited the reserve in September to find out how RSPB Ouse Fen is being created. Please read this blog post to find out more. 

    A new viewing mound was built at the end of the Reedbed Trail during October. Here are some pictures of it:

    Please read this blog post to find out more about the new viewing mound.

    In terms of unusual sightings, a juvenile purple heron was seen in August and an American golden plover was seen just off the reserve during October. 

    RSPB Ouse Washes

    A pair of black winged stilts nested on the reserve and fledged two young. This is the first time that this species has nested successfully in Cambridgeshire. Here are a couple of pictures of these elegant birds:

    Image credits: Jonathan Taylor

    There were also six avocet nests near the stilts which was quite a spectacle!

    The final breeding season count for common snipe was also very encouraging with 94 drumming males on the washes and 20+ on the Pilot Project (which is adjacent to the washes and part of the reserve). This is the highest number for seven years and 20% increase on 2016.

    A number of “head-started” black-tailed godwits, which were hand reared at nearby WWT Welney before being released on the reserve, made good use of the scrapes on the reserve until mid-July. This is being done as part of Project Godwit. This EU Life funded project sees us partnering up with WWT. This is aimed at bolstering the species fortunes in the Fens and will hopefully see the species start to recover around the Ouse Washes, with particular focus on seeing them colonise the new habitat creation sites.

    There were up to 34 cranes feeding on the reserve in the autumn which is a very good count. A cheeky common seal also spent much of the summer and the autumn in the Old Bedford River, occasionally surprising visitors when it popped up in front of the hides! 

    RSPB Nene Washes

    Sadly,our surveys found only 35 pairs of black tailed godwits nesting on the reserve, the lowest number since 2003. Productivity was poor with just five fledgling. However, we were very generous and eight early clutches were taken for head-starting at WWT Welney, part of Project Godwit. We are pleased to announce that 26 chicks fledged from this which will be a great boost to the Fens population.

    Cranes were the standout success of the season, the wintering flock of 33 birds broke up leaving us with five pairs, three of which nested successfully and four chicks fledged. Lapwings increased from last year to 185 pairs but redshank at 138 pairs and common snipe at 61 drummers were both down from previous years. Additionally, there were four booming bitterns and 24 little egret nests.

    A new Cambridgeshire record for cranes was set in the autumn when 38 birds were counted on the reserve. This is an incredible number given how rare this species has been in Britain until recently! 

    In terms of reserve management, one of the largest and most significant pieces of work was the installation of a new eel friendly pump on the reserve. Here are some pictures of it:

    Image credits: RSPB Nene Washes team

    If you would like to find out more about this significant piece of infrastructure, please read this excellent blog post by the Project Godwit team for more information. 

    Hopefully, 2018 will bring us plenty more successes on our reserves in the Cambridgeshire Fens.