Wildlife review of 2018 at the Mid Yare Valley reserves

This year has seen vast contrasts in weather conditions, from the freezing cold March right through to the (joint) hottest on record, these conditions have affected the resident and migrant bird populations in 2018. Below are a list of the highlights and a couple of lowlights of the year.

First of all to the breeding season; on average the breeding birds decreased in 2018, we believe this was due to many resident birds being disadvantaged by the freezing cold March, cool spring and hot summer. This decreased the population of resident birds and interestingly appears to have been partially responsible for a decrease in migrant breeders too, possibly due to food availability or general habitat condition.

The biggest losers were the bearded tits, in 2017 we had 48 first brood nests, but in 2018 none could be located. Luckily 20 birds were seen in late summer, so we hope that there were at least some successful nests on site this year. Cetti’s warblers also plummeted with 34 territories in 2017 and just 17 in 2018. Both of these species are on the Northern edge of their range so are quite susceptible to cold winters, hopefully they will bounce back in the coming years. Reed buntings however, are not on the edge of their range though and these decreased from 70 territories to 46 this year. Interestingly some of the migrants also decreased with reed warbler territories down from 105 to 83, sedge warblers down from 166 to 115.

The wet grassland had a similar story with lapwing reducing from 80 to 47 pairs, redshank reducing from 94 to 53 pairs and snipe reducing from 18 to 9 drumming males. This again could partially be due to the cold March followed by cold spring, the water levels were just about perfect for the breeding season when many other local grasslands were suffering from drought, so we were hoping for better results...

On to some more positive breeding news…. Marsh harriers remained at 23 nests across the reserves, we still had two booming bitterns at Strumpshaw Fen, 2 breeding pairs of garganey for the second year running, we had 14 reeling grasshopper warbler territories and a Savi’s warbler reeling from Reception and Fen Hide between 5 May and 8 June, red kites bred just off the reserve, the first such successful nest in the valley in modern times.  We had a fairly decent list of rarities and oddities throughout the year too, see the table below for details…


 Rarities and peak counts


Spoonbill                           Buckenham                30-Mar                      4

Little gull                           Buckenham                30-Mar                      1

Spoonbill                           Buckenham                 16-Apr                       1         

Black tailed godwit           Cantley                         06-Apr                       300 peak count      

Ruff                                   Cantley                         06-Apr                       142 peak count      

Temminck’s stint               Buckenham                10-11 May                1         

Savi’s warbler                   Strumpshaw Fen       5 May - 8 June         1 male singing        

Sandwich tern                  Strumpshaw Fen       6-May                        2 flyovers

Black-winged Stilt             Buckenham                10-May                     2 one evening only

Lesser yellowlegs             Buckenham                12-Jul                         1 one afternoon only

Great white egret             Strumpshaw Fen       21-Jul                         5 regular in June    

Honey buzzard                Strumpshaw Fen       25-Jul                         1         

Shoveler                          Strumpshaw Fen       24-Aug                      142 peak count      

Glossy ibis                       Strumpshaw Fen       01-Sep                       1         

Osprey                            Strumpshaw Fen       01-Sep                       1         

Pectoral sandpiper         Buckenham                 22 Sep- 14 Oct        2 Juvs- very long stay!      

Gannet                           Strumpshaw Fen       01-Oct                       1 Juv 

Teal                                 Buckenham                 09-Nov                      902 peak count      

Mandarin duck               Strumpshaw Fen        7-Nov                        1 drake of unknown origin

Starling                           Strumpshaw Fen        27-Nov                      7000 roosting

Waxwing                        Strumpshaw Fen        11-Nov                      1

Water pipit                      Strumpshaw Fen        Nov-Dec                    6 throughout winter        

Marsh harrier                  Strumpshaw Fen        Nov                            56 roosting  

Jack snipe                      Strumpshaw Fen        19-Nov                      1

Rough legged buzzard   Strumpshaw Fen       02-Dec                      1         

Marsh harrier                  Strumpshaw Fen        Dec                             46 roosting  

Hen harrier                     Strumpshaw Fen        16-Dec                      3 roosting                

Pink footed goose                                                  16-Dec                      2060 peak               

White-fronted goose                                             16-Dec                      200     peak              

Taiga bean goose   25-Nov          4                     

                                    26-Nov          8         

                                    12-Dec          15                  

                                    15-Dec          21                  

                                    17-Dec          17                  

                                    21-Dec          20                  


Interesting non avian records

Silver washed fritillary confirmed as a breeding species at Strumpshaw Fen

White letter hairstreak seen (5) at Strumpshaw Fen, a breeding species resurgence?

White admiral seen in good numbers again

Swallowtail numbers steady, with 162 larvae counted on our annual single visit survey

Willow emerald damselfly spread has increased and they now seem to be everywhere!


I would like to say a big thank you to all of our supporters and we all wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!