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RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve celebrates series of wildlife firsts in twentieth anniversary year

Last modified: 03 December 2015

Volunteers reed planting, RSPB Lakenheath Fen

Volunteers planting reeds to help create the nature reserve's now famous reebed

Image: Andy Hay

Staff, volunteers, visitors and wildlife all helped make the twentieth birthday of RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve on the Suffolk-Norfolk border this year very special indeed, as the reserve’s china anniversary marked the end of one of the most successful breeding seasons in its surprisingly short history.

The 31 October marked twenty years to the day since the first sod was dug in 1995, beginning the transformation from arable farmland to wetland wildlife haven made possible by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and WREN on behalf of FCC Environment, together with support from Suffolk Development Agency and Suffolk County Council. (Note 4)

Two decades on and the verdict from the wildlife is undeniably that this was money well spent:

Wildlife firsts at Lakenheath Fen this year

·         The two pairs of common cranes that call the reserve home had their best breeding season yet in 2015, producing three young between them. This was not only the first time that the cranes had produced three young in the same year, it was also the first time that crane twins had fledged on the reserve-  a relatively unusual occurrence for common cranes.

·         In July, reserve Warden Katherine Puttick found a new moth for Suffolk on the reserve, the loosestrife conch- a species of micro moth. 

·         A new species of damselfly for the reserve, the willow emerald damselfly, was photographed on 12 September. This species is a relatively new colonist to Britain which is increasing in East Anglia year on year.

·         This summer the reserve hosted Suffolk’s first little bittern to be recorded in the county in 35 years.

David White, RSPB Lakenheath Fen Visitor Experience Officer said: “It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate the twentieth year since the reserve was created with so many positive wildlife stories, which help to reinforce what a huge success Lakenheath has been, both for giving wildlife a home and for giving people of all ages brilliant wildlife viewing opportunities.

“A male little bittern establishing its territory on the reserve this year is especially exciting, as the only other place in the UK little bitterns have nested since 1984 is at RSPB Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. We’ve got our fingers crossed for them nesting here in the future!”

Lakenheath Fen’s reedbed was created for the express purpose of providing rare Eurasian bitterns- a close relative of the little bittern- with a new home away from their last remaining refuges on the Suffolk coast and in The Broads. The birds that call the reserve home had a successful breeding season, with five “booming males” on the reserve in the spring and at least four successful nests.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “It is amazing to have seen the dramatic transformation at Lakenheath Fen in such a relatively short period of time. I first visited the site when it was just a carrot field, and I am delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to support the development of this wonderful home for wildlife, and give people a chance to explore the incredible natural heritage of the Fens. We’d like to wish the team at RSPB Lakenheath Fen a very happy anniversary!”

Peter Cox, Managing Director of WREN, said: “FCC Environment and WREN are delighted to have played a small part in the creation of such a wonderful place.  It is gratifying to see that some of the first Landfill Communities Fund grants provided have helped turn carrot fields into functioning and flourishing reedbeds; the RSPB are to be congratulated on their vision and hard work which have made Lakenheath Fen the success it is.”

RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve is open at all times and the visitor centre is open daily 9am-5pm apart from 24-26 December. RSPB members visit for free. There is a facilities charge of £4 per car for non-members of the RSPB. Please ring 01842 863400 or e-mail lakenheath@rspb.org.uk for more information.

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