Wildlife on our reserves in 2018

Kelly Thomas

Friday 12 April 2019

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, amongst grass

Places for nature

The deep booming sounds of bitterns booming in the reedbed, lekking black grouse, calling male natterjack toads on a spring evening, the cruising flight of swallowtail butterflies over the fen, tumbling choughs, the raucous sound and distinctive smells of a seabird colony…

If you have visited one of our 218 nature reserves, you may well have your own special memories.

But imagine if we add up all these wildlife moments from across the 158,300 hectares that the RSPB manages (that’s an area four times the size of the Isle of Wight). Well that’s what we have just done for 2018.

Around 16,500 species have been recorded on RSPB reserves, of which more than 3,000 are of conservation concern.

Each year, we collate and review the wildlife on all our wonderful nature reserves and report of the ups and downs of the bird breeding season, together with other wildlife highlights. This is now available for 2018 and here are some of the highlights…

It was a mixed breeding season for birds on RSPB reserves. Most of the species for which specific management is carried out on RSPB reserves continued to do well, reflecting the brilliant work carried out by our reserves and conservation staff. Meanwhile, a few other species declined, most likely due to bad weather and factors affecting them away from their breeding sites in the UK. 

Highlights included bitterns, cranes, roseate terns and Mediterranean gulls reaching their highest ever breeding populations on our reserves, and white-tailed eagles breeding on Orkney for the first time in 145 years.

Sadly, during 2018 several bird species experienced sharp declines, most of which appear to be related to the severe weather in early spring – the so called “Beast from the East”. In addition, there was a sharp fall in the number of nightingales on our reserves, a trend which echoes the worrying decline of this species in the wider countryside.

We have over 2,300 rare and scarce species of insect across our reserves

Although our reserves are most often associated with birds, the land we manage is also home to an incredible range of other wildlife, from butterflies to slime moulds. We have over 2,300 rare and scarce species of insect across our reserves, including Great Yellow Bumblebees, and more than 1,300 species of flowering plant across our reserve network, including scarce species such as Irish ladies-tresses orchids at reserves including Portmore Lough, Lough Beg, Coll and Oronsay. 

The report could not possibly cover all the work on all the species across our reserves, but it gives a flavour of the range and scale of this conservation work. Ours is our piece of the jigsaw but we are one amongst many. We have a bold ambition for the amount of land that should be protected or restored for nature – from the current estimate of 5% of UK land well managed for nature to 20% by 2025. This is how we will help nature recover.

Our nature reserves are amazing places – for wildlife and for people. We hope that this tempts you to discover a reserve you have not been to before and experience some of these treasures for yourself?

Tagged with: Country: England Country: Northern Ireland Country: Scotland Country: UK Country: Wales Topic: Birds Topic: Conservation Topic: Wildlife