Whilst the reserve has been closed and lockdown has been underway, I wanted to provide an update on what has been happening on the reserve, to reassure you that it has not been neglected or forgotten about.

At the outset of lockdown back in late March, RSPB closed all our reserves, volunteers were sadly asked to not come in, staff worked from home where possible, and then were furloughed. As site manager, in common with other RSPB reserves, I was the remaining member of staff not furloughed.

The list of tasks that RSPB felt met the essential criteria at the time, was limited. It included anything to do with livestock (supporting the national effort around food and farming), and also site security. As we began to also consider conservation management, a limited number of other priority tasks began to be undertaken, dependant on the nature of each of our sites.

So at Rainham Marshes, we have managed to continue to deliver the following priority areas of work..

  • Maintaining site security during lockdown – whilst we have had some instances of trespass, and some damage, it has not been excessive. The police have been kept informed.
  • Cattle turn out – this took place on the 20th - 22nd April, on both Aveley and Wennington Marshes.
  • Maintaining our electric livestock and predator fences – both the fence on Aveley and Wennington have been maintained, repaired where necessary, and vegetation has been cut back to ensure they remain effective. This has ensured cattle stay where they are meant to be, and foxes have been kept off areas with important populations of ground nesting birds like lapwing and redshank.
  • Managing water levels – given the hot April and May, water levels held up well on most areas of the marshes. By mid-May however, it began to be necessary to start and pump water, using both diesel and solar pumps. This has been very effective at keeping key areas wet.
  • Monitoring – a basic level of monitoring has been undertaken, of key species such as lapwing and redshank, and also one or two other species.
  • Planning and undertaking other work – we manage areas of goat’s rue each year in late June.

Since lockdown has started to ease, we have been preparing for a measured and gradual reopening of the reserve. I hope this will be in mid July - the continued closure is to allow sensitive wildlife to finish breeding before we let visitors back on site.

We have welcomed back a small number of volunteers to assist with specific tasks, and one member of staff has now returned from furlough leave.

As our plans for a measured re-opening become clearer, I will continue to keep you informed. Thank you for bearing with us, whilst we ensure the wildlife is ready, and the reserve is ready to receive visitors again.

Our trail cameras continue to pick up interesting wildlife photos - this flock of starlings is regular on the marsh at the moment, including lots of fledged young.