What a great looking …..whatchamacallit

The working party at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve has now finished their latest building project.

A walk from the Visitor Centre along the Heron Trail will shortly bring the ‘Bus Stop’ into view. The Bus Stop is not the usual looking hide nor is it a fully covered shelter, but offers great, wide views of Heronry South Lake from its elevated position.

With its ramp and seating arrangement, it is also easily accessible. Why not pay it a visit soon? And don’t forget to pop by the Visitor Centre afterwards for refreshments, too.

Photographic Competition winners announced!

The Friends of Paxton Pits are delighted to announce the winners of the inaugural Paxton Pits Photographic Competition. The winners were all presented with their prizes and certificates at a ceremony held at the Visitor Centre on the 16th March. 

Gold Crest by Jaqueline Hill
Member of the Friends of Paxton Pits and St Neots U3A Photography Group
Best Overall Picture – Winner (One year’s membership of the St Neots & District Camera Club)
Best Picture by a Member of the Friends of Paxton Pits – Winner (£25 gift voucher)
Best Bird Picture – Winner (£25 gift voucher)

The overall winner was Jaqueline Hill for her picture of a Goldcrest, and she wins a year’s membership to the St Neots & District Camera Club.

All the winning photos can be seen on the website, and will be on show at an exhibition called Paxton Pits In Focus at St Neots Museum from 1st May – 8th June.

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition with such high quality images of our beautiful reserve – and to everyone who provided a prize. The Friends would also like to thank Peter Hagger for all of his help in running the competition.

Birdwatching bonanza!

Lower than normal water levels

Lower than normal water levels on both Heronry North and South during September and October has led to local birdwatchers being able to enjoy some of Paxton’s best birdwatching for the last 50 years!

The most dramatic increase has been in the numbers and range of water loving wading birds and egrets – this climaxed on Sunday 21st October when we counted no fewer than 28 little egrets on both Heronry North and South. Even more amazing was the numbers of previously rare great white egrets. In recent weeks they have built up to at least six of these beautiful birds – a real treat for local visitors to our reserve.

Where have all these egrets come from? It’s an often asked question. Well, little egrets have actually been here for twenty years, but have never bred. Maybe next year?

And as for the great white egrets – they are now breeding in at least four different UK locations, but not as far as we know in Cambridgeshire. What will happen next spring? Watch this space!

And it’s not just egrets. You can expect to see green sandpipers, common sandpipers, snipe and lapwings on the same pits, along with over ten species of wildfowl. And don’t forget we have a very interesting stock dove roost building up at this time of year, too.

So much to enjoy. Come and visit this wonderful nature reserve for yourself to catch a sight. There are great hides and nature walks for all the family.

– Trevor Gunton

Common terns thriving at Paxton Pits

A recent survey of the common terns which nest on the specially-installed rafts on the Heronry North Lake has revealed a bumper brood. Twenty-one chicks were counted this year, across four rafts anchored near Kingfisher Hide, and this is only a minimum as some may have been hiding in the tunnels as it was a very hot day. In 2017, seventeen chicks successfully fledged, so this is a good increase.

The rafts have been made possible by the direct and indirect help of almost all the volunteers involved with Paxton Pits. Whether you’re a Friend, a volunteer who helped build and install the rafts or a player of the Kingfisher Lottery, which provided the vital funds for the project – they couldn’t have happened without you.

The common tern nests on a type of habitat that has been in decline, and the rafts provide a safe, gravelled platform protected from predation from waterborne attackers such as otters by tall, clear plastic sides. It’s a joy to watch these beautiful and elegant birds over the waterways of the reserve, and brilliant that they have successfully hatched so many young this year thanks to all your help.

New report on the birds and wildlife of Paxton Pits

Earlier this year, The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve produced the first annual comprehensive report on the numbers of birds and wildlife of Paxton Pits for ten years. Collating information gathered by a huge range of volunteers who conduct regular surveys, the report lists all the species sighted on and around the reserve in 2017, from scarce occasional visitors such as ring ouzels and ospreys, all the way through spiders and dragonflies to butterflies, fungi and, for the first time, mammals.

The report makes sobering reading in many ways, with dramatic reductions in such iconic species as swallows, house martins, spotted flycatchers and nightingales, as well as brown hares, hedgehogs and water voles. However, there is some counterbalance, with big increases in little egrets, red kites, various species of gulls and common buzzards, which is now the UK’s most common breeding raptor. There are also more badgers, muntjac deer and otters than there were ten years ago.

The reports will once again be an annual occurrence, helping everyone who is interested to keep tabs on their favourite species. It also goes to show how important your sightings are to us – please do report what you see in our book at the Visitors’ Centre when you visit, or by emailing sightings@paxton-pits.org.uk.

The report has been put together with help from a huge number of people including Grainne Farrington, Adrian Hyde, Roger Lloyd, Mike Thomas, Jim Stevenson and Neal Parking – among many others. The Friends are extremely grateful for everyone’s help.

Copies are available for anyone to buy from the Visitors’ Centre for just £5 each.