Common terns are back from Africa

At around mid April, we had a keen eye on the migration reports from Portland Bird Observatory and other southern locations as they confirmed that Common Terns were beginning to arrive in the UK, back with us after a long journey from their winter quarters in south and west Africa.

At Paxton Pits we were getting ready to launch the four tern rafts after they had been grounded for cleaning and refurbishment, and sure enough we were just in time. On the 17th April at 10am we launched and anchored the rafts on Heron Lake North. By 10.05am the first tern had settled to check them out, and by 10.06 more had arrived. 

Tern courtship on the rafts at Paxton Pits

Paxton Pits volunteer Janet had a front row seat:

“It was a real treat being out on the water. As we approached the buoys with the first raft in tow, a very brave black-headed gull stood defiantly until we were a few feet away and then it gave up and flew.   

“The Terns were not only quick to land on the rafts but they were also doing that synchronised walk that they do and presenting fish to each other.”

Exciting times now lie ahead watching nature in the fast lane at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, as the terns pair up, lay and incubate their eggs, feed the chicks, give flying lessons and then depart in late summer all the way back to Africa.

The Kingfisher Lottery Club has financed three of the rafts and one has been paid for by donations received by the friends. We are very grateful for all of your continued support as we look after these beautiful birds through their breeding season.

This is an excellent time to renew your Kingfisher Lottery Club membership. The joining form can be downloaded here, is also available at the Visitor Centre. Failing all else, do phone the promoter who will be pleased to send you the form (Martin Runchman 01767 690093).

Joining the lottery club means that we can continue to create further projects to help wildlife together.

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