Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

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You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Improving the state of UK nature

    Today, alongside many of our conservation partners here in the East, we are calling for more to be done to help the region’s wildlife.  Why? Today, the State of Nature 2016 report is being launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation and research organisations in London.

    Following on from the groundbreaking State of Nature report in 2013, leading professionals from 53 wildlife organisations have pooled expertise and knowledge to present the clearest picture to date of the status of our native species across land and sea. The bad news is that the report reveals that over half (56%) of UK species studied have declined since 1970, while more than one in ten (1,199 species) of the nearly 8000 species assessed in the UK are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

    It's pretty stark stuff, and here in the East it's more important than ever that we work together to save nature. The Eastern region is home to large proportions of the UK’s wildlife rich habitat including fens (80%), reedbed (50%) and saltmarsh (31%), making the area a stronghold for many vulnerable wildlife species. Over half of all UK turtle doves are found in the East, a species that in recent years has declined by 97% and over 90% of the UK’s rare fen orchid can now only be found within the Norfolk Broads.

    Here's how conservationists around the region have reacted to the report:

    John Sharpe, Conservation Officer, RSPB

    “The Eastern region is one of the last remaining strongholds for species like turtle dove, nightingale and fen orchid. Without our help, they could disappear from the UK forever.  The report findings are a stark reminder of the work we have ahead of us, but there is hope.We can be extremely proud of the conservation work taking place in this region thanks to passionate individuals and innovative partnerships. Through targeted initiatives we have already seen significant reversals of the decline in creatures such as stone curlew and bittern. 

    “However, there is so much more to do, and no one organisation or group can do it on their own. It is crucial that conservationists, landowners and managers and businesses in the region work together if we want to ensure that the East remains one of the most wildlife rich landscapes in the UK.”

    Oliver Burke, Director of Living Landscapes, Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire:

    “Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire have historically seen some of the highest rates of species loss in the UK.  The State of Nature Report is a powerful tool to help raise awareness around this continued decline both locally and at a national level.  By doing this it enables our Trust to champion the conservation of our most cherished species, taking action at a local level.  As a result it’s not all doom and gloom and our three counties can highlight some real conservation success stories, from the water vole stronghold at the Great Fen and the successful dormouse reintroduction project at Bampton Wood, to the fantastic wetland creation in the Nene Valley supporting internationally important numbers of wintering wetland birds.”

    Brendan Joyce, CEO, Norfolk Wildlife Trust:

    "It is time for us to take action to save nature and we are calling on people to give their support. We can all do something for nature, whether it is volunteering on a nature reserve, surveying species, making wildlife-friendly gardens, supporting landscape-scale conservation projects, or by becoming a member of a conservation charity."

    Julian Roughton, Chief Executive, Suffolk Wildlife Trust:

    “The State of Nature highlights great successes in turning around the fortunes of some of our rarest and most vulnerable species. In contrast on farmland once widespread species continue to decline as a result of intensive management, which is of special to concern to us in a farming county such as Suffolk.

    "Where farmers are supported to create wildlife habitats species, such as skylark and yellowhammer, can thrive. But we need to address this at a landscape scale to stem the decline in farmland species. Brexit provides an opportunity for a new vision for farming that sustains wildlife and addresses decades of wildlife declines.”

    Andrew Impey, CEO, Essex Wildlife Trust:

     "Three years on from the first State of Nature report and there is yet more compelling evidence of a serious and sustained decline in our wildlife. However, we now have a portfolio of projects, partnerships and innovative approaches that are potential solutions, demonstrating just what can be done to tackle this issue. In Essex we have demonstrated a suite of techniques for wetland creation and regeneration, which benefits wildlife, but which also delivers flood risk mitigation and catchment management.

    "Conservation NGOs have the relevant skills and knowledge and are desperate to work with the Government, to deliver sustainable ecosystems, that deliver food and clean water, but that also thrive in rich biodiversity. However, without Government will to engage, it’s like an engine running low on oil – on the surface it is functioning, but underneath it is teetering on the edge of terminal failure.

    "Losing iconic species from our region would be bad enough; losing them while knowing that we could have done something to prevent it would be unthinkable."

    Aidan Lonergan, West Anglia Area Manager, Natural England:

    “This report outlines that there are still significant challenges that we collectively face in the maintaining a healthy natural environment. There are worrying trends with declines in once common species, and ever increasing pressures on our wildlife. Natural England is working closely with our partners to target our efforts where we can achieve the most. We need a coherent landscape scale approach to conservation - offering places like our National Nature Reserves for people to reconnect with nature, to provide cleaner air and water, and to help us be resilient to the threats of climate change.

    Our partnership work on the Great Fen in Cambridgeshire is a fantastic example of how we can restore nature by working together at a landscape scale. Natural England are helping to connect the wildlife rich National Nature Reserves at Woodwalton and Holme Fen, by restoring arable farmland back to the traditional fenland habitats that once were there; Not only offering flood storage, but a wonderful place to see historic fenland management and to enjoy some outdoor recreation in a beautiful countryside”  

    For a full copy of the State of Nature 2016 report and to find out how you can do your bit to save UK wildlife – www.rspb.org.uk/son


  • Summer in the wildlife friendly garden

    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.

  • Happy second 20th birthday Lakenheath Fen

    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.