You, our supporters, are amazing. But the cliché “we couldn’t do it without you” doesn’t seem to suit. You have been as big a part of what has been achieved through RSPB work, as we have. So much has been accomplished in recent years; you stood with us in 2019’s Youth Climate Strikes, you raised funds to help remove invasive species from Gough Island, and over 100,000 of you signed your names to protect RSPB Minsmere from Sizewell C... that’s just three off the top of my head. But your support is also making an impact in other ways, and we have seen small but significant successes popping up left, right and centre – here is a handful of those from our wetland wonders.
Sunset at RSPB Ouse Washes – Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
After a six-year absence from RSPB Ouse Washes, where black tailed godwits had not bred since 2012, two pairs successfully bred in 2018. Project Godwit helped head start the population and they have gone from strength to strength, four pairs in 2019 and seven pairs breeding in 2020. This success has spread and recently a ringed male was seen displaying on newly created wetland nearby. At the early stages of the breeding season, when the adults are incubating and rearing the chicks, the Project Godwit team have been lending a helping hand. Artificially incubating eggs where necessary and guarding young chicks means more chicks are successfully raised.
Unfortunately, due to the events of 2020 (I don’t think we need to specify) many of the planned activities as part of Project Godwit could not go ahead. But that didn’t stop you. In February 2021 we launched our Godwit Appeal, which has already raised over £90,000 to help get the programme back on track.
The appeal is supporting chicks and nesting sites on our nature reserves as well as working together to stop the construction of an airport at a key migration stopover point.
Image: Black tailed godwit - Chris Comersall (rspb-images.com)
Seven corncrakes singing
Don’t panic, Christmas is still a long way off, this is actually the number of singing male corncrakes recorded at RSPB Ouse Washes in 2020. If you're now thinking “seven doesn’t sound a lot” and “what are corncrakes?” then keep reading.
Corncrakes are part of the moorhen and coot family; however, they are unique in their habitat use. They prefer lowland areas such as marsh, grassland or even meadows over 20cm in height and during the winter months they migrate to sub-Saharan Africa. So not strictly a wetland wonder, but certainly a wonder.
Corncrake – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Their situation in the UK, sadly, has been a pretty dire one. In fact, in the 90’s it was predicted that by the time I would be sat here writing this, corncrakes would have been extinct in the UK. It’s a wonder I'm writing about them at all. Their need for tall grasses throughout the early breeding season (April – July) means they’re susceptible to intensive farming techniques that mow during this period. With your support, we have been working with farmers and actively managing reserves to mow later in the year and maintain suitable breeding habitat.
“Seven singing corncrakes” is sounding a bit better now, isn’t it? Males have been singing at RSPB Ouse Washes since 2014, initially part of a captive breeding programme. The big news is that since 2019, not only captive bred but wild bred individuals have been recorded indicating they have been breeding successfully. Good few years for Ouse Washes.
Making tracks... and dams
Like RSPB Ouse Washes, many of our nature reserves have been the stage of success with your support. Big changes are happening at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond. Our focus here has been on creating suitable habitat for internationally important Greenland white-fronted geese that will have knock on effects for other species too. We also had a very special visitor, our favourite cartoonistic mammal, the beaver, has been recorded on site.
As is often the way with wildlife, a population of Greenland white-fronted geese had set up shop where the food was – who can blame them. However, this happened to be on nearby farmland, and therefore not under any protection. Improving the reserves feeding grounds was essential to encouraging this species to naturally forage in protected areas. With your support and as part of the LIFE 100% for Nature project, specialist tractor equipment was purchased enabling the team to manage this challengingly wet and clay-rich ground.
Greenland white-fronted goose – Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Sometimes, nature has a way of surprising you too. In 2019 the team miraculously discovered a beaver using the reserves water ways. In fact, not just swimming around, but feeding on site too. Beavers are keystone species, this means they can engineer the habitat, in this case wetland, to support a vast array of wildlife (just like the keystone in an archway). This first, plucky individual gives hope for the nature reserve and the wider species that will benefit from new wetland areas.
One of England’s largest intertidal reedbeds just got a whole lot bigger
The good news just keeps on coming. We’ve recently been given the go ahead to expand our RSPB Blacktoft Sands nature reserve. Positioned next to the Humber river on the East coast, the reserve is home to breeding populations of some of our trusty wetland species: bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tits.
Thanks to our members, we’ve been able to receive vital funding to purchase 50 acres of an adjacent farm and to support the amazing workforce to manage this new area of land.
So, there you have it. A whistle stop tour of some of your conservation successes, and that’s just a handful from our wetlands. What about woodlands, heathlands, uplands, farmland, seabirds, invertebrates...
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