July 2008 Progress Report

July 2008 Progress Report of the development of the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

 

Hanson Aggregates - RSPB Needingworth Wetland Project

The notes below have been written by the webmaster following a conducted tour of the reserve with the RSPB Ranger.

 

The Ranger's this year have taken over control of the second of the two lagoons that are now under RSPB management. When an area is handed over by Hanson it is already landscaped in accordance with the overall agreed plan leaving the Rangers to create a suitable habitat. As time is of the essence the first thing to do is plant the blocks of reed beds.

New lagoon

Lagoon No2 with its new reed-beds

Lagoon No2 with its new reed-beds

 

The picture above shows the current state of Lagoon No2. The new reed-beds are the dark oblong areas and are protected by posts and netting to allow them to become established. The thing that looks like a pipeline is actually the conveyor belt that takes gravel from the lagoons that are being worked back across the River Great Ouse to the Hanson Works at Needingworth.

Reed Beds

Reed Mace (Typha latifolia) in Lagoon No1

Reed Mace (Typha latifolia) in Lagoon No1

 

The RSPB have made excellent progress with the development of the first of about 30 lagoons at the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve, large tracts of the new reed-bed are just beginning to spread in Lagoon No1 however the wetland birds have already given the site their approval by moving in. In this respect I was staggered not only by the numbers of birds already resident but also by the specie diversity of both flora and fauna. The ranger assured me that they only planted a single variety of reed but I counted at least a dozen varieties of rush and numerous other aquatics and semi-aquatics

Soft Rush

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus)

Soft Rush (Juncus effusus)

 

Water Plantain

Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica)

Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica)

 

The weather over the last 18 months has not exactly been helpful with fluctuating water levels hampering the development work. Later in the overall project it will be possible for the wardens to control the water levels of each individual lagoon. This will be achieved by diverting water from the River Great Ouse when it is at high level into a "moat" which surrounds much of the site.

The Moat

The Moat that will be used to channel water into each of the lagoon

The Moat that will be used to channel water into each of the lagoon

 

The Moat has been excavated, landscaped and planted, the flora being allowed to stabilise before the moat is put into use this coming winter. However it has already attracted its own residents as can be seen in the picture above. Water flowing between each lagoon and the moat will be controlled by a simple sluice.

Simple Sluice

A simple sluice to control the lagoon water levels at the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

A simple sluice to control the lagoon water levels at the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

 

These sluices, two for each lagoon; one as an inlet and the other as a drain, allow the rangers to maintain the water at the optimum level for the target specie both flora and fauna. I was surprised to learn that reeds require a fairly stable water level in order to thrive and that the fluctuating water levels of the first year of operation have, in the eyes of the experts, delayed the reed bed establishment but Lagoon No1 looked like it was doing fine to me!

Settling in!

The reed beds becoming established in Lagoon No1 and some of the new residents of the Ouse Fen Nature Resurve

The reed beds becoming established in Lagoon No1 and some of the new residents of the Ouse Fen Nature Resurve

 

One thing is for sure the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve is set to become a very popular location not just for the bird watchers but also for the birds. It is just as well that they do not require Air Traffic Control

Air Trafic

Air Traffic over Lagoon No1 in late afternoon at the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

Air Traffic over Lagoon No1 in late afternoon at the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

 

I was very impressed by the thought and effort that has gone into the construction of the Ouse Fen Nature Reserve and considering that it is still a few years away from opening to the public it is already making a profound impact on the wildlife on the area. No doubt many other animals and birds will move in as time goes by. I did encounter a large Hare run only a few metres away and was so startled it was gone before I could take a picture of it, I will be more prepared next time!.

Sunset and Thunder

Approaching thunder storm at Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

Approaching thunder storm at Ouse Fen Nature Reserve

 

I am very grateful to the RSPB Warden, Chris, for a most enjoyable afternoon. I would have liked very much to have seen more of his efforts and that of his team but failing light due to an approaching thunder storm forced us to seek shelter. We'll tell more of the story and see how they are getting on in the spring of next year.