Minsmere RSPB reserve at dawn

Winners and losers at Minsmere

Mel Kemp, North Suffolk coast reserves warden, talks about his time working at Minsmere.

Experiences at Minsmere

"I started working at Minsmere in 1982. Since that time, I've seen different species of birds come and go as climate change is affecting their ranges. Perhaps the birds' food supply also changes as a result of the climate.

The red-backed shrike has disappeared and tree pipits and wheatears have declined. The willow warbler's range is moving north and whinchats went a long time ago.

The Dartford warbler has arrived, marsh harriers have increased – they are over-wintering more.

The silver-studded blue butterfly is emerging two to three weeks earlier than normal. I have records showing that it emerged on 4 June in 2008. But even a few years ago, I would not expect it to emerge until mid-late June, or even July.

From drought to flood

I've seen more drought conditions. It makes the mud harder. What this means for wading birds, like lapwings, curlews and redshanks, is that it is harder for them to probe the earth for worms with their bills. There is also the problem of the worms often being lower down in the soil.

When it does rain, there is flash flooding. We lost four or five bittern nests because of this in 2008. This is a very rare bird so these losses are really tragic, since even these few nests represent some of the best breeding successes for bitterns in the UK."

The grass isn't always greener

As the weather is warmer, it means grass grows for longer. Yet, because of agricultural subsidies we are still obliged to remove grazing cattle before the grass has stopped growing. Lately, grass is still growing in November, which means we have to cut it mechanically to get the best conditions for birds. This is tough, expensive, manual work.

As livestock keepers, we are concerned about more animal diseases. One disease, blue-tongue in sheep, is spread by midges from the sub-Saharan desert. It's already in Holland and Belgium. If we get an unfavourable wind, I'm worried it could travel here this autumn.

'At home, I do everything I can like using low-energy light bulbs, composting my kitchen waste and using water butts.'

What does the future hold?

I don't think things in the future are looking too rosy. Minsmere is a large reserve of more than 10 square kilometres. By 2050, we could just have a bit of heathland left, as the climate changes. We could lose the bluebell woods. All this could be okay for more mobile species like birds, but will other creatures, like plants and butterflies, be able to adapt quickly enough?