Record bird success at nature reserve

By David GreenA NATURE reserve, created to compensate for losses expected as a result of global warming, is celebrating record success.Work to create the Lakenheath Fen reserve began in 1996 with the purchase of 700 acres of arable land used to grow carrots.

By David Green

A NATURE reserve, created to compensate for losses expected as a result of global warming, is celebrating record success.

Work to create the Lakenheath Fen reserve began in 1996 with the purchase of 700 acres of arable land used to grow carrots.

Now, after the excavation of about 3.6km of new waterways and meres and the planting of more than a third of a million reed plants, the reserve is bursting with wildlife.


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A new study, published today, revealed the number of rare and uncommon birds at the reserve had dramatically increased over the past eight years.

The study showed that six pairs of marsh harriers have nested in the fen this year, raising 14 young.

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Bearded tits have bred - for the first time in the Suffolk Fens since 1900 - while the number of reed warblers has grown to 638 from just six in 1995.

The population of six sedge warblers found in 1995 has grown to 164, while reed bunting numbers have risen from just four to 161.

Two pairs of golden orioles, a species more usually associated with southern Europe, also nested there this year.

Hopes are now high that bitterns - already seen hunting in the reedbed - will breed at the reserve within the next few years.

Plans for the Lakenheath Fen reserve were drawn up as part of the RSPB's response to the threat posed by global warming.

Sea level rise and increased erosion is expected to damage and destroy a considerable area of prime freshwater habitat along the East Anglian coast, including at least part of the internationally-important Minsmere reserve.

The East Anglian Fens, a wetland wilderness, once extended to 1,300 square miles and most was drained in the mid-17th century for improved agriculture.

However, the land at Lakenheath Fen is thought to have been prime wildlife habitat up to the end of the 19th century when it was finally drained.

By the 1990s - until the RSPB made a successful bid of £1million with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund to buy the site - it was being used for the intensive production of carrots.

Now it is a wildlife oasis in an area dominated by arable farming and the huge military air bases of RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall.

Norman Sills, the reserve's warden, said 64 bird species had now been recorded there and, apart from optimism over future bittern breeding, there were hopes of attracting other rarities, such as the Savi's warbler.

“We've already got all the classic reedbed birds and the numbers of these should increase as the years go by,” he added.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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