Category Archives: Wetland birds of Britain

Omens of a hard winter

Just thinking of their Siberian haunts brings a shiver, and when Bewick swans arrive early in Britain it’s considered a sign of a cold winter to come.  This year over 300 landed in the Slimbridge Wetlands Reserve on October 18, two weeks earlier than in 2009.  Rather worrying considering the Cold Snap of January 2100.

A large crop of holly berries is another traditional omen of bitter weather.  Though this autumn’s rich fruit and nut harvest can be explained by the year’s stable and sunny spring, perfect for flowering and pollination.

Purple herons are nesting in the UK

Purple herons are sporadic visitors to the UK, but they’ve gone one step further this year.  Exciting news from the RSPB reserve in Dungeness, Kent, is that a pair have built a nest and are apparently sitting on eggs.  A 24-hour guard has been established to promote chances of a successful breeding, which would be a historic first for Britain. This southern European heron is expanding its range northward, probably due to climate change, and is expected to become a regular breeder in Britain in the near future, following in the footsteps of its relative, the Little egret.

Hopefully, the presence of this spectacular bird will help the RSPB fight against plans to build an international airport at nearby Lydd.

Sugar beet and the Pink-footed Geese

At first light, the sound of huge flocks of honking Pink-footed Geese fills the north Norfolk sky as they fly in from their roosts on the Wash. Back in the 1960s, wintering Pink-foots in the UK numbered about 50,000. Nowadays there are over 200,000 and about half of them are found in Norfolk. Continue reading Sugar beet and the Pink-footed Geese

Bittern recovery

After the successful breeding season of Scotland’s sea birds and an increase, at least temporary, of British butterflies this summer, comes the good news about Bitterns. Their recovery is remarkable because they were close to extinction as recently as 12 years ago. Extensive conservation work in wetland areas has paid off, particularly the restoration of dry reedbeds and creation of wet reedbeds. At least 82 booming males have been recorded in 2009, a high point since their total extinction at the end of the 19th century. Read more at the RSPB. Photo by Andy Hay.

Cranes breeding in the UK

(photo: Grahame Madge RSPB)

In the Middle Ages cranes were served at royal banquets – along with herons, bitterns and spoonbills.  But as their habitat shrank they disappeared from the menu and from Britain.  Since the early 1980s a small group of cranes has gradually became established in the Norfolk Broads. This year brings fantastic news – juvenile cranes have been seen in Lakenheath Fen nature reserve in Suffolk, which before recent restoration was an area of carrot fields.  The next step in the Great Crane Project is to re-introduce the species to the Somerset Levels.  More at the RSPB