We have recorded 80 types of fish on our reserves: 34 freshwater and 46 marine species. In this guest blog Jack Perks, underwater photographer and “fish twitcher” explores their underwater world.

Now, when you think of the RSPB most people’s immediate thought is of course birds: but in more recent years have moved towards all British flora and fauna. Fish aren’t what you’d expect the RSPB to conserve and promote but you’d be wrong! Reserves like Leighton Moss regularly survey their fish.

It’s important to know what fish are living on RSPB reserves and monitor numbers as if there are increases and massive decreases in fish this has a knock on effect on all the other wildlife. Fish are indicators of water quality with species like brown trout, minnow and barbel needing clean oxygenated water to thrive.

Grayling - photo by Jack Perks

We have 54 species of freshwater fish in the UK from the more well known species like Atlantic Salmon to more elusive species like spined loach and Arctic charr. Wetland areas provide fantastic habitat for stillwater species like tench, rudd and bream while pike, perch and eels will happily live in large bodies of water also. Smaller ponds can be lifeline for some of our rarer fish like crucians, and 9 spined sticklebacks, the smallest fish in the UK.

Spined loach - a tank shot by Jack Perks

Eels are Critically Endangered. The RSPB works to help ensure the young eels can move into their wetland reserves to grow and develop before returning to the Sargasso sea to breed by installing ‘eel passes’ (bits of material to help them pass over the water control structures). At many reserves staff and volunteers count these tiny eels moving into the reserve (at some reserves, such as Leighton Moss, tens of thousands travel into the reserve each year).

Male stickleback - photo by Jack Perks

Other than being an important part of the food chain fish are incredible in their own right having a range of unique behaviours, habitats and interactions we are just starting to reveal. Spineless Si from this year’s Springwatch has shown the public can show a huge amount of enthusiasm for species other then birds and it was great to see so many people rooting for the little guy.   

Next time you’re walking around a RSPB reserve or any water body why not have a bash at fish twitching.

 Here are my top tips for fish twitching:

  • Wear polarising sun glasses to cut through the suns glare and spot fish easier
  • As with birding dull colours and moving slowly are important as fish are very sensitive to movement.
  • Look for structure fish like to hide among weeds or large rocks even in urban areas things like old shopping trolleys will hold fish.
  • Brush up on your fish I.D as many can look very similar with only subtle differences
  • Try to find clear water to look for fish as it will be much easier to look for movement.

 Jack Perks is a professional wildlife photographer specialising in freshwater species. His work is featured on the RSPB Image Library. To see more of his work visit www.jackperksphotography.com

This post has been illustrated by Jack's wonderful photographs - and it brings to mind our own fish spot recently at Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve captured by my son.


Rudd at Rainham Marshes - Photo by Jack Farrar