Tuesday, 21 May 2013

For the Little Paxton Parish News

Summer birds: We seem to have 23 singing nightingales, which is slightly up on last year.  The star performer is a bird we ringed six years ago, when he was already an adult, so he’s officially the oldest nightingale on record at the British Trust for Ornithology. To us, he is worth more than his weight in gold as he has entertained several thousand visitors a year who came here specially to hear a nightingale. There are a few nightingales just north of Peterborough at Castor Hanglands but otherwise, we are right on the edge of the birds’ range. People from all over the north of England make the pilgrimage to us each year and spend their money in our visitors’ centre. Other star birds here are turtle doves and cuckoos, both of which are in serious decline nationally.

Thank-you, dog walkers! As we did in 2012, this spring we asked dog owners to keep their dogs on leads in  two critical areas of the reserve where we have low-growing scrub with birds nesting on the ground. The result has been pleasing with many dog owners complying with our request. Next year I hope for 100% cooperation as it simply isn’t good enough for us to have nightingales nesting if they raise no young. Nightingales are not the only ground-nesting birds of course; everyone knows about skylarks, pipits, plovers, pheasants and partridges, but in fact, quite a few of our summer migrants nest on, or very near, the ground. I really hope this turns out to be a better breeding season than in recent years. Fingers Crossed!
The Vanishing Pond: Over the last two years, most of you will have seen the mysterious comings-and-goings of the water in our new pond. We had a leak in the bentonite liner that was installed for us by Pondline Solutions of Oundle. The company made two attempts to repair the problem but, in the end, they agreed to replace the entire liner with a more conventional one that is heat-welded at the seams. The pond was filled with water in late May and I hope it still is! The next phase of the project is to build a platform at the edge of the pond so that you can come and watch dragonflies and other insects there. When we drained the pond we rescued a few dragonfly nymphs, some smooth newts and three tench weighing about a pound each. How did they get there?

Projects: Our big push this year will be to improve access on both trails for everyone, but especially those of you who use wheelchairs. At the moorings there is a section that suffers from winter flooding and on the Meadow Trail we plan to replace the steps with a ramp. These projecst will be funded by The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Rserve.

Events: The Friends and Rangers ran a series of very successful summer events, including our annual nightingale walk that attracted 150 people.  Our autumn programme, which will include a big “Autumnwatch” event  will be available very soon. In school holidays, watch out for special events for children and families at our Environmental Education Centre, which is run for us by the local Wildlife Trust.