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RSPB Lakenheath Fen Nature Reserve thanks its volunteers for their role in supporting and promoting wildlife

Paying tribute to a merry band of volunteers

Since I started my new role here in August, I have been lucky enough to see how Lakenheath is supported by the hard work of a tireless raft of volunteers, and this month I wanted to give readers an idea of the work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ at the reserve to not only keep it going, but to improve our offering to wildlife and to visitors in the long-term. Even though the days are short now and often cold and wet, it doesn’t diminish the enthusiasm or commitment of our team, which is wonderful to see.

Some of our volunteers work directly with wildlife and its monitoring – for example, on November 17 we had our annual harrier roost count take place in the late afternoon, with four keen-eyed volunteers assisting our warden Katherine.

Together, they found 17 marsh harriers, as well as spotting one peregrine and one merlin on the night, too. Without these helpers stationed strategically around the reedbeds, all armed with walkie talkies, it would have been impossible to co-ordinate the survey and to count all the birds. There will be WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) counts carried out in the winter and Breeding Bird Census surveys carried out in the summer, all of which will be heavily supported by volunteers.

There are many odd jobs that always need doing on the reserve and the bulk of these are carried out during work parties, which we have on Tuesday and Thursday of every week. Quite recently a couple of volunteers added a new sign to our Photography Station, a feature of the reserve which has become quite popular since it was built in 2017! Pat Rolph was a well-loved member of the team here at Lakenheath who has since passed away, so the team felt it fitting to dedicate the station to him, and his name now sits proudly above it (see photo).

The same day those volunteers also put a new sign up on Mere Hide and tidied up the grit tray that sits outside, ready for winter. Bearded tits will visit the trays to collect small pieces of grit to help them digest their winter diet of nothing but reed seeds.

Each year we aim to cut a portion of the reedbed habitat at Lakenheath to provide a diversity of reedbed age and density, attracting different species – in much the same way as a wood is coppiced. For example, bitterns like to nest in dense, mature reed cover, but to feed in more open (younger) sections with small pools for hunting fish and frogs to feed their young.

Back at the centre, we have several volunteers who spend their days welcoming visitors to the reserve, showing them the best spots to try for different wildlife and helping to keep the place organised, clean and tidy.

Without the hard work, knowledge and experience of all our volunteers, the work we do as a site to welcome visitors, take care of wildlife and highlight the plight and history of the Fens just wouldn’t be possible. I hope this has been an interesting read and we hope, as one big diverse team, to welcome you here for a visit soon!

Heidi Jones

Visitor Experience Officer


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