Here are some photos from our recent wildlife gardening weekend on the reserve.
Thanks to green-fingered volunteers Steve and Sarah we had lots of plants on sale, from old favourites like sunflowers through to the astonishing electric daisy (eat a flower and you'll understand the name). Steve and Sarah are keen wildlife gardeners and generously shared their advice on how to make your own patch equally full of bees, frogs, birds and more. They're real local wildlife heroes, so thanks again both of you!
Steve and Sarah (slightly more camera-shy)
We were also giving out copies of our free Giving Nature a Home booklet which explains the top ten easy actions you can take for wildlife back at home. If you missed this event but would like to get involved then you can pick up a copy at any of our other August events or have a look at our fantastic website of ideas here.
The bees couldn't keep themselves away from the plant stall, demonstrating just how great it is to grow wildflowers in your garden
Younger visitors had a go at making their own plant pots out of newspaper (instructions here) and planting some wildlife seeds to take home. Thank you Oakington Garden Centre for kindly giving us compost and seeds for free - another great local example of people doing their bit to help nature.
Our next free drop-in event will be making butterfly feeders this weekend. We'll be based at the picnic benches at the bus stop with our marquee and we hope to see you there.
Step outdoors at the moment and you may find yourself in a real-life fairytale...
Image: banded demoiselle by Steve Dobromylski - look out for these along the riverside path north of Drayton Lagoon
Yesterday's guided walk was filled with darting, skimming, shimmering damselflies and dragonflies.
It’s a great time of year to enjoy seeing these magical insects. Just wait for a still, sunny day and go for a stroll near water.
Dragonflies and damselflies are the order of insects called Odonata, which means ‘toothed jaws’ - these carnivorous insects really are the dragon of the skies for the small flies and mosquitoes they devour.
Like the dragons of our myths and legends, they’re beautiful too. Electric blue, emerald green, coral red... At Fen Drayton Lakes there’s even gold at the end of the rainbow, as sometimes we’re lucky enough to spot the scarce chaser - a rare dragonfly whose females and immature males are a glorious yellowy orange. Look out for these along the path between the Busway and the Moore Lake hide, as we saw several on the walk yesterday.
Folklore is full of these otherworldly insects. They used to be called the Devil’s Darning Needles, and one story has it that if you fall asleep by water they’ll come and use their long thin bodies to sew your eyelids shut. In the Middle Ages they were even sometimes mistaken for fairies, and it’s easy to see why, with their dancing flight.
Behind the myths, the true story of these creatures is just as fascinating. They’re so ethereal and delicate-looking, it’s startling to learn they’re older than the dinosaurs. Yet fossils definitely show that 300 million years ago their ancestors were thriving – some had a wingspan of 70 cm, the full length of my arm.
Returning to the present, if we want to be able to pass down some of these stories to our own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we need to look after these creatures now.
Damselflies and dragonflies live around water, as that’s where they lay their eggs. The disappearance of so many ponds and ditches in the countryside is taking away their homes.
A few weeks ago we published State of Nature report in partnership with 24 other conservation organisations. It's a groundbreaking health check of nature in the UK and Overseas Territories, and one of the things it highlighted was that freshwater and wetland habitats – our ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, ditches, canals, reservoirs, reedbeds, fens and marshes – occupy just 3% of the UK’s land surface, but support around 10% of our species. They're incredibly rich in wildlife and we need to do more to look after them: 57% of freshwater and wetland species for which we have sufficient data have declined, and 29% have declined strongly.
So if a pond is one of those garden projects you’ve thought about but never quite got round to tackling, go for it! You can find great advice here.
What better way to bring the magic of nature closer to home?
Back in May a bold partnership of UK conservation organisations published the State of Nature report. It's a stark portrait of the state of our nation’s wildlife and ecosystems: in the last 50 years a frightening 60% of monitored species have declined, over half of them substantially, while one in ten is threatened with extinction.
To start reversing the widespread declines the State of Nature report has highlighted, we need everyone’s help to give nature a home across the country. Many of the creatures in serious danger are your once familiar, much-loved garden inhabitants – hedgehogs, butterflies, and birds that used to be common like house sparrows and swifts.
That’s why we’ve launched our Giving Nature a Home campaign, helping you welcome a rich variety of wildlife into your gardens so that they have the space, food and shelter they need to thrive again. Our website offers lots of simple ideas you can carry out whether you’ve got a hanging basket, balcony, courtyard or (lucky you) a big garden to work with.
Image: Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
You’ll see from our Fen Drayton Lakes events programme that over August we’ll be sharing some ideas on the reserve each weekend too – tips on wildlife gardening, how to make a butterfly feeder, building bee homes and more. Do come along to see us and pick up your free Giving Nature a Home guide.