Lakenheath Fen hailed as conservation sign of hope

Bittern (RSPB Images  Andy Hay)
Bittern (RSPB Images Andy Hay)

A major report on the state of Britain’s wildlife has highlighted the success of the RSPB’s Lakenheath Fen reserve.

The report State of Nature, published last Thursday, was compiled by 25 conservation bodies and much of it is a catalogue of disappearing habitats and declining species.

But its section on England says: “A range of fantastic new reedbeds have been created across England in recent years, aiding the recovery of many specialist species, such as the bittern.”

It lists seven, including Lakenheath, and says: “All of these sites are worth visiting at any time.”

Lakenheath Fen site manager Dave Rogers said: “A lot of stuff in the State of Nature report is quite depressing and is a call for everybody to do something, otherwise the countryside is impoverished and will continue to be impoverished.

“Lakenheath Fen demonstrates that if you understand what the problems are and do the correct scientific research, then you do the right work you can change the fortunes of a species.”

The report cites the bittern which in 1997 was down to 11 breeding pairs but last year 106 pairs were recorded. Of those, 10 per cent are at Lakenheath, which was once carrot fields.

It was more than a case of flooding fields. Dave explained: “If you’re a bittern you want a good supply of fish and access to the fish, so you need a nice edge to fish from. The more edge we create, the more edge they have to fish from.”

But it is not just bitterns: all wetland creatures have benefitted from 40 insect species that feed on reeds to otters.

Sadly other species and habitats have not done so well. The report says 80 per cent of the UK’s heaths have been lost in 200 years and 56 per cent of England’s butterfly species are declining as are farmland, woodland and sub-saharan migrant birds.