Friday, 10 May 2013


Ash flowers
We did not celebrate April Fool's day this year because it just didn't feel like April. Winter temperatures prevailed for most of the month so that all the flowers, insects and migrant birds were held back. Even so, by the end of the month we had seen most of the species we would expect, but in very small numbers: we only heard 12 nightingales, for example. There was some blossom and the leaves finally burst out, all at once in the last week, but we had to wait until May for the widespread arrival of migrants.

Despite the late start, people still turned out to hear the first nightingale and the first cuckoo. The car park was often full from early in the morning due to eager photographers who wanted to capture a nightingale before the emerging leaves would hide them. 14 organised groups brought 280 people along and we had 3749 visitors through the visitors' centre.

At the Environmental Education Centre, (which I prefer to call "The Nature Lab") Debbie organised drop-in activities for the school holidays and these proved very popular with parents and grandparents, as well as the children, of course.
Grass snake

The Friends continued to run their Third Thursday Walks and 30 people joined in this month. We also tried an experimental "roadshow" to promote the Reserve and the Friends. The first venue we chose was Buckden. Ann Scott and David Bale booked the village hall and two talks were promoted widely; one in an evening and one in an afternoon. Both meetings were very well attended and we raised more than enough money to pay for the hall. Best of all, Trevor was able to recruit a dozen or so new members.  I was bursting with pride at this opportunity to show off the reserve. The event also demonstrated the team spirit that we have at Paxton. Debbie, who works for the Wildlife Trusts, came along to promote our Environmental Education programme, the Friends turned out a great team and Kirsty (now known as Kirsty Cup-Cake) and I represented Huntingdonshire District Council.
Purple Toothwort

May Bank Holiday brought really warm weather and masses of visitors. Our nest-cam in the visitor centre revealed that our bluetits finally got round to breeding. They laid eight eggs. I was equally excited to see a swallow prospecting our barn for a nest site. I would love to have them chattering away in our yard.

I seem to be working a lot of evenings at the moment, with guided tours, meetings and lectures. I love this aspect of the work, almost as much as I enjoy tramping around the reserve. For example, this week we held our annual Nightingale Serenade on a beautiful, warm, calm evening. Over 120 people turned up, many of them early, so that by 7.30 we had run out of car parking spaces. I think this was one of the most successful nightingale events for several years and I know that our visitors really enjoyed it.

This week also sees the annual Little Paxton Scarecrow Festival which will be celebrated and lubricated at the village hall on Saturday. Go along and take part. The Friends will have a stand at it and we will hear if our entry, or Debbie's fantastic voyager at the Environmental Education Centre, won any prizes. Last year the festival organisers donated enough money for us to replace the floor in the Hayden Hide.

I mentioned the low number of migrants in April, but by May 9th we had a big arrival of swifts and the number of singing male nightingales rose to over 20.