Thanks to you, we’ve been able to buy more land for nature – here are some of the special new places where we’re working for wildlife. In the first Making an Impact blog, we talked about some of the small but mighty wins for our wetland species. From black-tailed godwits to bitterns, your support is helping nature not only improve, but thrive. The progress doesn’t stop there, and sometimes you may not realise the impact and range your support has, for example it gives us power to purchase, enabling us to secure funding and reach for the stars when it comes to expanding nature reserves.
Buying more land for nature is no easy task, from getting the land in the first place, to managing it in the future. It’s also not about getting any old corner of a field, we’re all about bigger and better, building corridors between existing havens and growing nature reserves to provide more stable habitat for breeding species. Last year we gained 16 new sites, totalling the size of around 250 football pitches. That’s 16 new sites to give nature a bigger and better home.
RSPB Berney Marshes nature reserve, Norfolk – RSPB Images (rspb-images.com)
RSPB Blacktoft sands
After a brief mention in Your Wetland Wonders blog, we thought we would tell you a little bit more about this missing puzzle piece at RSPB Blacktoft Sands. Nestled on the banks of the Humber estuary, it is not uncommon to watch quartering marsh harriers to a back drop of passing cargo ships – a significant wildlife haven. Don’t just take our word for it, volunteer Daphne recently told us about her first visit to the site.
Finally, in 2020, after years of hard work and your support, we finally secured the funding to get our hands, beaks and wings on the last two blocks of land at the site. With plans to create shallow freshwater lagoons and wet grassland, plus the opportunity to grow arable grains for wintering waterfowl and passerines (including some of our favourite garden birds).
Extending this reserve and creating more pools will allow the breeding populations to expand and stabilise.
RSPB Birsay Moors
Let’s head north, really north. RSPB Birsay Moors is situated on Orkney, an island off the very top of Scotland. This raw, rugged and beautiful landscape supports an array of species including red-throated diver, merlin and short-eared owls. As with much of the UK, intensified farming on Orkney is encroaching on valuable habitat for wildlife, and habitat fragmentation (the process of creating smaller and scattered land) is a real threat for Orkney species.
One particular species which has been a priority focus is the curlew. These soft edges between the upland and farmland habitats – areas under threat from intensified farming – are critical for curlew, offering a mosaic of rough marginal habitats for breeding, feeding and chick rearing. This is where Skesquoy comes in. Skesquoy is a new patch of land which will extend RSPB Birsay Moors to reach Loch of Hundland, a vital corridor to protect the breeding curlew.
Whether you have supported the Curlew Recovery Programme, or eaten the curlew inspired chocolate eggs, with donations from each purchase going to the programme, you have demonstrated the importance of protecting curlew. Thank you.
RSPB Berney Marshes
The new area of land at RSPB Berney Marshes, in Norfolk, is exactly what we meant by “building corridors between existing havens”. The current nature reserve is in two parts, a larger chunk following the River Yare and a nearby patch to the west, on The Fleet tributary. Both sites are fantastic for waders such as golden plover, pink-footed geese and lapwing, but it is important to not forget that wildlife doesn’t know if it is on RSPB land, or unprotected grassland. It was therefore paramount to protect Halvergate Marshes, the little stretch in the middle.
The marshes in between cover an area twice the size of Wembley Stadium. Acquiring it though is arguably more important than any world cup match, although we might be slightly biased. It will not only provide a continuous link between the two main areas, but it could create suitable breeding habitat for egrets or even spoonbills in the future.
Only a handful of spoonbills breed in the UK, around 30 pairs nationwide, with a good colony in Norfolk. Opportunities to build on this previous success are not ones to be missed and it will be exciting to follow the progress at RSPB Berney Marshes in the future.
With more land comes more responsibility
Time to sit back? Not yet. Your endless support is the driving force for our teams across the UK, now more than ever. Let’s try for 17 sites this year...
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