Happy New Year to you all! We hope you all had good festive seasons.

I will start the year with a review of 2017 from our RSPB reserves in the Cambridgeshire Fens:

RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes

The reserve was treated to the presence of a rare bird in May when a female red footed falcon appeared on 5 May. It was present for a couple of weeks and bought lot's of people to the reserve.  Please follow this link to find a photograph of this stunning bird.

A new viewing shelter and seasonal trail was completed in August. The shelter overlooks Ferry Lagoon and here are some pictures of the shelter and the new views:

Image credits: Luke Wake

There was also some excitement in August when Assistant Warden Luke Wake found the reserve's first willow emerald damselfly at the end of the month. This species is on the increase in Britain and here is a picture of one that I took at RSPB Lakenheath Fen in 2016:

Image credit: David White

Hopefully, this beautiful species will continue to spread across the reserve in years to come. 

In botanical news, there were at least 20 spikes of bee orchids on the reserve in June which were lovely to see.

There was an impressive gathering of fish loving bird species at the reserve in the autumn with over 50 little egrets, three great white egrets and over 100 cormorants, What a spectacle!

RSPB Ouse Fen

There were seven booming bitterns on the reserve in the spring which is a great number. There were 27 booming males in the Fens this year, so the reserve held an impressive 26% of the Fens population of booming males! Although marsh harriers didn't have the best breeding season, this was mirrored across several sites in the Fens so hopefully they will have a better year next year. Bearded tits were also widespread across the reserve.

A new promotional video was produced in the spring to showcase how the Hanson RSPB Wetland Project is creating RSPB Ouse Fen at Needingworth Quarry. It can be found on the project's brand new page if you haven't seen it already. 

A delegation from China visited the reserve in September to find out how RSPB Ouse Fen is being created. Please read this blog post to find out more. 

A new viewing mound was built at the end of the Reedbed Trail during October. Here are some pictures of it:

Please read this blog post to find out more about the new viewing mound.

In terms of unusual sightings, a juvenile purple heron was seen in August and an American golden plover was seen just off the reserve during October. 

RSPB Ouse Washes

A pair of black winged stilts nested on the reserve and fledged two young. This is the first time that this species has nested successfully in Cambridgeshire. Here are a couple of pictures of these elegant birds:

Image credits: Jonathan Taylor

There were also six avocet nests near the stilts which was quite a spectacle!

The final breeding season count for common snipe was also very encouraging with 94 drumming males on the washes and 20+ on the Pilot Project (which is adjacent to the washes and part of the reserve). This is the highest number for seven years and 20% increase on 2016.

A number of “head-started” black-tailed godwits, which were hand reared at nearby WWT Welney before being released on the reserve, made good use of the scrapes on the reserve until mid-July. This is being done as part of Project Godwit. This EU Life funded project sees us partnering up with WWT. This is aimed at bolstering the species fortunes in the Fens and will hopefully see the species start to recover around the Ouse Washes, with particular focus on seeing them colonise the new habitat creation sites.

There were up to 34 cranes feeding on the reserve in the autumn which is a very good count. A cheeky common seal also spent much of the summer and the autumn in the Old Bedford River, occasionally surprising visitors when it popped up in front of the hides! 

RSPB Nene Washes

Sadly,our surveys found only 35 pairs of black tailed godwits nesting on the reserve, the lowest number since 2003. Productivity was poor with just five fledgling. However, we were very generous and eight early clutches were taken for head-starting at WWT Welney, part of Project Godwit. We are pleased to announce that 26 chicks fledged from this which will be a great boost to the Fens population.

Cranes were the standout success of the season, the wintering flock of 33 birds broke up leaving us with five pairs, three of which nested successfully and four chicks fledged. Lapwings increased from last year to 185 pairs but redshank at 138 pairs and common snipe at 61 drummers were both down from previous years. Additionally, there were four booming bitterns and 24 little egret nests.

A new Cambridgeshire record for cranes was set in the autumn when 38 birds were counted on the reserve. This is an incredible number given how rare this species has been in Britain until recently! 

In terms of reserve management, one of the largest and most significant pieces of work was the installation of a new eel friendly pump on the reserve. Here are some pictures of it:

Image credits: RSPB Nene Washes team

If you would like to find out more about this significant piece of infrastructure, please read this excellent blog post by the Project Godwit team for more information. 

Hopefully, 2018 will bring us plenty more successes on our reserves in the Cambridgeshire Fens.