Blogger - Erica Howe

It’s amazing what you can do with a little imagination. We’ve been asking you all to help us give nature a home this summer and you have told us some wonderful stories including this one from my colleague Rich. He is a pretty inspiring chap if i do say so myself. He has the pleasure of working on one of the RSPB newest nature reserves, Sutton Fen. Sutton Fen is buzzing - literally. The meadows are teaming with wildlife from rare plants to elusive moths. Rich’s story begins away from the reserve and, rather unusually with some sand. Whilst digging out a pond at home, Rich decided to leave the piled-up, sandy earth in a south facing heap. Because the soil was sandy and quite acidic, he seeded the earth with a mix of acid loving plants such as sheep’s sorrel, black medick, sheep’s fescue and wild carrot. Soon enough it was covered in burrows of many species of wasps and bees. The bank also attracted birds which came to feed on the wasp eggs and larvae under the soil. Blue tits and green woodpeckers came back time and time again to feast on this fly-through snack stop. Rich left his sandy heap of earth in place and this year the flowers have taken over and it is covered in nectar for a whole range of other insects. A pond is excellent for wildlife, but this added feature will really spice up the wildlife in his garden and make great use of that excess soil.

Back to Rich’s place of work and it’s easy to see where he get’s his inspiration from.  At Sutton Fen, there too are some sand banks. Not especially pleasing on the eye, but they are a treasure trove for wildlife. These sandy mounds of earth are home to the rare fen mason wasp. This creature has very unique requirements; It needs bare ground, in which it can burrow to lay it’s eggs. The ground must be strong enough to hold it’s shape when it is dug into, but soft enough to dig through. It must also be sticky to allow the wasp to make it’s characteristic ‘chimney’ burrow.  The bank has to be south facing so that the wasps have a nice warm environment and they are usually sheltered by trees to the north providing vital protection during cold winters or hammering rain. It’s not an easy life being a fen mason wasp! Creatures like this are vital to our entire environmental ecosystem and managing this kind of habitat is not an easy job. However, it’s simple to take inspiration from places like Sutton Fen and make your own little patch of wildlife heaven. For more information and some other handy wildlife tips, go to www.rspb.org.uk/homes 

As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 13 July 

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